Initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped 44,000 to 448,000 in the July 26 week, as the new emergency unemployment compensation program recently voted on by Congress is now being enacted, causing a “structural shift” in the jobless claims series, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The emergency unemployment compensation program might have affected claims levels in the week ended July 19 and will likely continue to “disrupt the stability of our series” for “a couple of weeks,” a department analyst told reporters.

This increase brought initial claims in the week ended July 26 to their highest level since reaching 450,000 in the week end April 19, 2003.

The week’s increase was well above forecast expectations, which had centered on a median of 395,000 in a Market News International survey.

The four-week moving average rose 11,000 to 393,000 in the July 26 week.

Continuing claims for the July 19 week were up 185,000 to 3.282 million, posting their largest rise since a 200,000 surge in the week ended June 27, 1998, the Labor Department reported. Continuing claims have stayed above the 3 million since the April 19 week.

— Market News International

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