WASHINGTON (12/20/13)--Initial jobless claims filed the week ending Dec. 14 were up by 10,000, according to the Labor Department, but officials and analysts warned that the report is unreliable.
First-time unemployment claims rose to a nine-month high of 379,000 from a revised 369,000 in October, according to data released Thursday.
A department spokesperson said that the four-week moving average was a better gauge of labor market activity during the holidays, with seasonal adjustments notoriously unreliable this time of year (Bloomberg Dec. 19). That measure still climbed to a month-high of 343,500, from 330,250 for the week ending Dec. 7, and continuing claims also rose by 94,000 to 2.88 million that week.
But Moody's analysts said that they don't see a reversal of recent labor market improvements in Thursday's data, claiming that the Labor Department won't get "a clean reading" until the middle of January at the earliest (Economy.com Dec. 19). The ratings and research firm said that other reports this month show business confidence improved, with a near-majority of firms currently hiring and manufacturers adding to payrolls.
The analysts predicted a small decline in jobless claims. The median forecast of 48 economists polled by Bloomberg also predicted first-time claims would drop--to 336,000.
The budget passed by the House last week and approved by the Senate this week could affect jobless benefit recipients soon, with emergency unemployment insurance in the tentative deal set to run out in the new year. The number of Americans receiving these payments was up 125,100 to 1.37 million for the week ending Nov. 30, according to Thursday's report.
A half-million people are also set to use up regular state benefits in the first quarter and won't have access to federal emergency unemployment insurance unless Congress appropriates funds for it after the winter recess.
The roughly 1.8 million people joining the ranks of those without jobs and benefits will shave about 0.15% off GDP growth next year, according to Moody's.
The firm is predicting that fiscal policies will be responsible for a 0.4% overall abatement of growth next year, but said that the agreed-upon federal budget, which reverses some sequestration cuts, will be less of a drag on GDP than the budget this year, which cut 1.5% off growth.