After surging to their largest gain in more than three years, initial claims for state unemployment fell 21,000 to 554,000 in the Dec. 13 week, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning.

Forecasts had centered on an increase to a level of 569,000 for the week, in a range of 550,000 to 600,000.

In comparison, claims were at 543,000 in the Nov. 15 employment survey week.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors and that a drop was expected, with the data dropping back to its normal level following a spike in the week after Thanksgiving.

However, this will be the last drop, he added, with “continual increases expected until mid- to late January,” indicative of a more seasonal cyclical trend.

These increases are also likely to be impacted by Chrysler’s announcement of plans to close down all of its plants for one month, meaning a massive addition to the number of those requesting jobless benefits.

The analyst said seasonal factors had been expected to cause unadjusted claims to decrease 14.3% or 109,000, for the Dec. 13 week, and they actually fell 17.5% or 132,588 to a level of 626,943, the analyst said.

The revision to the Dec. 6 week was upward, as initial claims are now reported up slight by 2,000 to 575,000 from that period, compared with an initial estimate of 573,000.

The four-week moving average for initial claims in the Dec. 13 week rose 2,750 to 543,750, once again the highest level since the Dec. 18, 1982, week, when the average was 554,500.

After rising above the four million mark in the week ended Nov. 29, the level of continuing claims stayed above that threshold, although it fell by 47,000 to 4.384 million in the Dec. 6 week. 

The four-week moving average for continuing claims in the Dec. 6 week was 4.226 million, the highest since the Jan. 1, 1983, week, when it was 4.275 million.

In the Dec. 6 week, the seasonally adjusted insured employment rate matched Nov. 29’s 16-year high of 3.3%, last seen Aug. 1, 1992.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is roughly half 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.

— Market News International

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