WASHINGTON - Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 to 365,000 in the July 28 week, a lower level than expected, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The median estimate of economists surveyed by MNI was for 370,000, a rise of 17,000 from the initially reported 353,000 level in the July 21 week. That week's claims level was revised up to 357,000.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factor in the current week's estimated and no states were estimated.

For the July 28 week, the analyst said seasonal factors had expected a decline of about 10.8%, or 36,711, in unadjusted initial claims in the week.

Instead, unadjusted claims fell only 8.8%, or 30,083 claims, to a level of 310,492. Unadjusted claims were at a level of 341,103 in the comparable week a year ago.

Typically, unadjusted claims spike in the first week of July due to planned manufacturing shutdowns. That spike is usually followed by three weeks of declines, the analyst noted. The July 28 week is the last of those three weeks.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average fell for the sixth straight week, down 2,750 to 365,500 in the July 28 week. This was the lowest level since 363,000 in the March 31 week.

The state data released for the July 21 employment survey week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 5 states and declined in 47 states, with 1 state unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

Continuing claims came in at 3.272 million after seasonal adjustment in the July 21 week, down 19,000 after a decline of 26,000 in the previous week. Continuing claims were at their lowest level since 3.259 million in the May 19 week.

Unadjusted continuing claims were down 97,192 to 3,239,615 in the July 21 week, and were still well below the 3,680,729 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at 2.6% for the 19th straight week in the July 21 survey week, down from the 3.0% 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 the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims fell by 23,628 in the July 14 week, bringing that category total to 2,532,828. Extended benefits claims fell by 22,920 to 13,207 not seasonally adjusted in the same week.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,964,553 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the July 14 week, a 69,672 decline from the previous week and still well below the 7,568,108 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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