US jobless claims rise an unexpected 4,000

Paul Sancya/AP
A laid-off Detroit Public School employee filed for unemployment benefits last month at a job fair sponsored by the school district. The number of newly laid-off workers filing first-time claims for benefits rose last week.

The road to recovery is never as smooth as one would like.

The latest bump: Initial unemployment insurance claims rose by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 558,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Analysts had expected the total number of Americans applying for jobless benefits would fall to around 540,000. They were looking for the number to confirm that July's dramatic slowing of job losses, reported last week, was no fluke.

Last week's increase in jobless claims didn't provide that confirmation. Neither did the four-week moving average, which moved up 8,500. It may be that July's job losses will have to be revised upward.

Still, the four-week moving average of jobless claims remains below the 600,000 range, where it had been stuck from February through the July 4 week.

The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell by 141,000 to 6.2 million. That total suggests they're exhausting benefits rather than finding new jobs, analysts say.

That will pressure Congress to once again extend unemployment benefits to tide families along until the economic picture improves. A record 5 million people have been out of work for six months or longer.
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