WASHINGTON - Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 to 382,000 in the September 15 employment survey week, still higher than expected and following an upward revision to the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Claims were at a level of 374,000 in the August 18 employment survey week.

The median estimate of economists surveyed by MNI was for 372,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the initially reported 382,000 level in the September 8 week. That week's claims level was revised up by 3,000 to 385,000.

A Labor Department analyst said that seasonal factors expected a rise of 30,800 in unadjusted claims in the September 15 week. Instead, unadjusted claims rose only 28,068 to a level of 327,797 in the current week. Unadjusted claims were at a level of 353,820 in the comparable week a year ago.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average was 377,750 in the September 15 week, a rise of 2,000 claims from the previous week and the highest since June 30 week, when it was 386,250.

The state data released for the September 8 week indicated unadjusted initial claims increased in 19 states and declined in 34 states, with no states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

Of the states that reported the largest unadjusted increases in the September 8 week, both Louisiana and Puerto Rico reported claims increases related to Hurricane Issac. However, the Labor Department analyst noted that the impact was modest.

Continuing claims came in at 3.272 million after seasonal adjustment in the September 8 week, a decline of 32,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since the May 19 week, when there were 3.259 million claims.

Unadjusted continuing claim fell only 5,307 to 2,925,518 in the week, and remains below the 3,306,720 level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at 2.6%, as it has since March, and is still 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 that the level of unadjusted Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits claims fell by 60,539 in the September 1 week, bringing that category total to 2,162,532.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 5,173,597 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the September 1 week, a decline of 217,823 from the previous week and still well below the 6,887,390 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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