RTTNews - The number of people filing first-time unemployment claims edged down again last week, though the figure remained off the multi-month low reached earlier this month.

The latest data showed that the government's unemployment rolls swelled once again, reaching another record high.

The report has raised expectations for next week's monthly employment report. Experts had hoped that an easing of layoffs had presaged an overall improvement in the labor market, but recent data has suggested that the moderation in layoffs is fragile and that companies are still very reluctant to take on new hires.

The U.S. Department of Labor revealed that initial jobless claims came in at 623,000 for the week ended May 23. This was down 13,000 from a revised mark of 636,000 in the previous week.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims, a statistic that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, dipped to 626,750 from the revised mark of 629,750 seen in the previous week.

Initial claims reached a 3-month low of 605,000 early this month, raising hope that the wave of layoffs that has accompanied the recession could be coming to an end. The number of claims rebounded however, in part as the problems in the auto industry led to large-scale cut backs in that sector of the economy.

Jobless claims have edged down the last couple weeks and remain well off the 640,000 seen in late March - the high for this cycle.

Continuing claims, which measures the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment help, rose once again and set another record high. The statistic climbed 110,000 to 6.788 million.

This marked the 19th consecutive week of gains for continuing claims.

Next week, the government will release its latest monthly employment report. More large-scale job losses are expected for May, accompanied by a further rise in the unemployment rate.

Early this month, the Labor Department said that non-farm payrolls dropped by 539,000 in April. This continued to show recessionary levels, but the job losses had moderated from the revised 699,000 seen in March. It was also the smallest drop in jobs since October of last year.

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