WASHINGTON (MNI) - Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell to 12,000 to 350,000 in the October 19 week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The median forecast from a survey conducted by MNI called for a level of 345,000, which would have been a 17,000 decrease from the October 12 week which was revised up to 362,000 from 358,000.

A Labor Department analyst noted that non-federal beneficiaries affected by the government shutdown could not be discerned from the data and that California is still seeing an elevated number of claims due to a computer systems upgrade.

California upgraded their computer systems during the September 7 week, the week after labor day which has created some distortions in the initial claims data over the last month.

There were 44,132 federal workers filing for unemployment insurance benefits in the week ending October 12, a decrease of 25,939 from the prior week. Federal workers are not included in the headline initial claims figure.

The labor department said that seasonal adjustment factors had expected a 10.8% decline in unadjusted claims, which would have been a 39,075 drop in the October 19 week. Instead, unadjusted claims fell 13.8% or 49,900 to 310,814 which is below the 345,226 level reported in the comparable week a year ago.

The initial claims seasonally adjusted 4-week moving average rose for the second straight week, increasing 10,750 to 348,250 in the week ending October 19.

The state data released for the October 12 week indicated unadjusted initial claims rose in 36 states and declined in 17 states, with zero states unchanged. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands are included in this data.

The level of continuing claims came in at 2.874 million after seasonal adjustment in the October 12 week, a 8,000 decrease from the previous week.

The 4-week moving average for continuing claims rose 13,250 to 2.895 million.

The level of unadjusted continuing claims rose 33,215 to 2.472 million in the October 12 week, below the 2.816 million level in the comparable week a year ago.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment held steady at 2.2% in the October 12 week, still well below the seasonally adjusted 2.5% 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 54,151 to 1,324,967 in the October 5 week.

The Labor Department reported that a total of 3,856,740 persons claimed unemployment benefits in the October 5 week, a 71,957 decrease from the previous week, but still well below the 4,923,220 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.

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