Unexpected rise in US jobless claims

Financial Times (Link) - Alan Rappeport (April 8, 2010)

The number of US workers claiming jobless benefits for the first time recorded an unexpected rise last week, diminishing some of the recent signs of hope for the labour market.

Initial jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 460,000 last week, labour department figures showed on Thursday. Economists were expecting claims to decline.

However, the total number of Americans claiming jobless benefits fell, declining by 131,000 to 4.55m. Analysts say that the recent declines in continuing claims reflect a combination of increased hiring and of unemployed workers seeing their benefits expire.

�Even after recent declines, the level of claims is higher than one would expect it to be if private non-farm payrolls were really poised to begin sustained gains,� said Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at MFR.

Economists argue that new claims need to fall to the low 400,000 level before the economy can consistently begin to create jobs. Last week, labour department figures showed that the US added 162,000 jobs in March, its best performance in three years.

But on Wednesday, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, urged caution over the labour market, warning that hiring remained �very weak� and that some of the economy�s toughest problems are in the jobs market.