WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits jumped more than expected in the March 30 week to their highest level in five months, rising by 28,000 to 385,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The initial claims level in the March 23 week was unrevised at 357,000. Expectations for this week's report was for a claims level of 350,000. The claims level in this week's report is the lowest since the Nov. 24, 2012 week — when it came in at 390,000. 

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average rose for the second straight week, up 11,250 to 354,250 in the March 30 week.

A Labor Department analyst said two states were estimated, the U.S. Virgin Islands due to the Easter holiday, and California — who the analyst said submitted claims data for the full week, but estimated two of those days due the Cesar Chavez holiday. The analyst stressed that despite this there was nothing unusual in the underlying state level data.

The analyst said that seasonal adjustment factors had expected a drop in unadjusted claims of 24,000 (-7.8%) in the March 30 week. Instead, unadjusted claims fell by a mere 0.5%, or 1,596, to 314,016. That level is below the 315,714 reported in the comparable week a year ago.

Last week, the Labor Department released new seasonal factors for the new calendar year.

The Labor analyst noted that when developing seasonal factors for this period of the calendar year, "historically this has been a difficult time of year to seasonally adjust."

He cited the unpredictability of school closings and the constant shift in the day on which Easter falls.

The state data released for the March 23 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 29 states and declined in 24 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

The level of continuing claims came in at 3.063 million after seasonal adjustment in the March 23 week, a decline of just 8,000 from the previous week.

The continuing claims level in the March 16 employment survey week was revised up to 3.071 million from 3.050 million, and is now down 31,000 vs. the Feb. 16 survey week (3.102 million).

The level of unadjusted continuing claims continued its decline, plunging 82,391 to 3,320,163 in the March 23 week, below the 3,636,712 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment remained unchanged at 2.4% in the March 23 week, below the seasonally adjusted 2.7% rate in the comparable week a year earlier.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.

The Labor Department said that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims dropped to 1,799,625 in the March 16 employment survey week, a decline of 106,699.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,288,614 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the March 16 survey week, a massive 167,165 drop off from the previous week, and well below the 7,050,710 persons in the comparable week a year ago. These data are not seasonally adjusted, and include regular state claims, federal employee claims, new veterans claims, the EUC and extended benefits programs, state additional benefits, and STC/Workshare claims.

Market News International is a real-time global news service for fixed-income and foreign exchange market professionals. See www.marketnews.com.

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