WASHINGTON — Initial claims for state unemployment decreased 15,000 to 322,000 in the Jan. 5 week, the Labor Department reported yesterday. Expectations had been for 340,000.

The previous week’s initial claims level was upwardly revised to 337,000 from the originally reported 336,000 level.

A Labor Department analyst said that although there were no special factors affecting the Jan. 5 week’s initial claims data, many states have experienced seasonal volatility, which is typical for this time of year following the holiday season. However, the analyst said unadjusted data has not been as “up and down” in recent weeks to cause any real concern.

Seasonals had expected initial unadjusted claims to increase by 6.6% but they actually only increased by 2.1% in the Jan. 5 week to a level of 522,392. There were 506,059 unadjusted claims in the comparable week a year ago.

The four-week moving average in the Jan. 5 week was 341,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s level of 344,000.

The level of continuing claims decreased 52,000 to 2.702 million in the Dec. 29 week. The seasonally adjusted four-week moving average for insured unemployment in the Dec. 29 week was 2.702 million, the highest level since the Nov. 19, 2005, week when the level was 2.723 million.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.0% in the Dec. 29 week, down from 2.1% in the previous week but above the comparable week a year ago when the rate was 1.8%.

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.

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