The number of American workers seeking jobless benefits for the first time neared a three-year high last week, leading some analysts to suggest the economy is not improving as much as many had assumed.
“Part of the rise in jobless claims reflected shutdowns of auto plants for model changeovers,” said economist Bruce Steinberg of Merrill Lynch & Co. “Nevertheless, the claims data reinforce our contention that the economy remained weak as it entered the third quarter.”
The Labor Department reported Thursday that first-time applications for unemployment insurance shot up by 18,000 last week, to a seasonally adjusted 417,000. Many analysts had expected an increase of only about 5,000.
It was the highest level since 418,000 new claims were filed during the week of Sept. 19, 1992, and the first time that claims topped 400,000 since Jan. 29, 1994, when they totaled 401,000.
The Labor report also showed the four-week moving average for claims jumped by 5,250 to 388,000, highest since 390,750 during the period ended Oct. 10, 1992.