WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by 23,000 to 369,000 in the October 20 employment survey week after sharp movements in the previous two week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

A Labor Department analyst said that there were no states estimate and nothing unusual in the state level data.

The median estimate of economists surveyed by MNI was for 372,000, a decline of 16,000 from the initially reported 388,000 level in the October 13 week. That week's claims level was revised up by 4,000 to 392,000.

The state data released for the October 13 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 31 states and declined in 20 states, with 1 state unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

California added 26,935 unadjusted initial claims in the October 13 week, rebound from the sharp drop in the previous week that was due in large part to timing issues related to the start of the new quarter. According to comments from the state, the jump in unadjusted claims could be attributed to "layoffs across all sectors, with the largest share from the service industry."

A Labor Department analyst said that seasonal factors expected a rise of only 0.3% in unadjusted claims in the October 20 week. Instead, unadjusted claims fell 5.5% to a level of 342,702 in the current week. Unadjusted claims were at a level of 377,152 in the comparable week a year ago.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average was 368,000 in the October 20 week, a rise of 1,500 from the previous week.

Continuing claims came in at 3.254 million after seasonal adjustment in the October 13 employment survey week, a decline of 2,000 from the previous week. Continuing claims were at a level of 3.281 million in the September 15 employment survey week.

Unadjusted continuing claims jumped by 63,421 to 2,811,504 in the week, and remains below the 3,196,554 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at 2.5% after falling in the previous week following 2.6% readings since March. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is still down from the 2.9% 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 fell by 45,836 in the October 6 week, bringing that category total to 2,052,957.

Extended benefits claims fell by 856 to 34,389 in the September 29 week.

The extended benefits program pays claims after a person has exhausted regular unemployment benefits and the four tiers of Emergency Unemployment Claims. The program provides benefits for an additional 13 weeks but some states can volunteer to pay extended benefits for an additional 7 weeks for a total of 20 weeks.

The extended benefits program can be triggered if a state has an unemployment rate above 8% and is more than 110% of that state's unemployment rate in one of the three previous years. New York is the only state currently eligible for this program.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 4,917,460 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the October 6 week, a decline of 84,525 from the previous week and still well below the 6,679,024 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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