RTTNews - While recent data has shown some signs of stabilization in the labor market, the Labor Department released a report Thursday morning showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased in the week ended August 15th.

The report showed that initial jobless claims rose to 576,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 561,000. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 550,000 from the 558,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected increase, jobless claims rose for the second consecutive week, although they remain well off the highs seen in March.

The Labor Department also said that the less volatile four-week moving average rose to 570,000 from the from the previous week's revised average of 565,750.

Additionally, the report showed that continuing claims edged up to 6.241 million in the week ended August 8th from the preceding week's revised level of 6.239 million.

Commenting on the data, Chris Low, chief economist for FTN Financial, said, Given the seasonal distortion upward in June and downward in July due to earlier than usual auto plant retooling, there's no need for panic just yet.

Still, this is the employment survey week, and claims are higher than they were in July, suggesting the improving trend in nonfarm payrolls may suffer a small setback this month, Low added.

Earlier this month, the Labor Department released a report showing a continued decline in employment in the month of July, although the pace of job losses slowed by even more than economists had been anticipating.

The report showed that non-farm payroll employment fell by 247,000 jobs in July following a revised decrease of 443,000 jobs in June. Economists had been expecting employment to fall by 325,000 jobs compared to the drop of 467,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The Labor Department also said that the unemployment rate unexpectedly edged down to 9.4 percent in July from 9.5 percent in June. With the decrease, the unemployment rate fell for the first time since April of 2008.

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