First-time claims for unemployment benefits showed a modest increase in the week ended August 8th, surprising economists who had expected a modest decrease. Nonetheless, jobless claims remain well off the peaks seen in the spring.
A report from the Labor Department released on Thursday showed that initial jobless claims edged up to 558,000 from the previous week's revised figured of 554,000. Economists had been expecting claims to slip to 545,000 from the 550,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The Labor Department also said that the less volatile four-week moving average rose to 565,000 from the previous week's revised average of 556,500. The revised moving average seen in the previous week marked a six-month low.
At the same time, the report showed that continuing claims in the week ended August 1 fell to 6.202 million from the preceding week's revised level of 6.343 million.
With the decrease, continuing claims fell to their lowest level since the week ended April 11th, although analysts have pointed out the recent drops in continuing claims are due more to peoples' benefits running out than an increase in hiring.
The labor market has been a significant source of concern in recent months, although recent reports have shown some stabilization in the rate of job losses.
Last Friday, 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 unemployment rate also fell for the first time in over a year.
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.