U.S. Jobless Claims Remain Elevated in Sign of Gradual Recovery

(Bloomberg) — Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits were little changed last week, contrasting with estimates for a decline and highlighting an economic recovery that’s coming in fits and starts.

Initial jobless claims in regular state programs increased by 4,000 to 870,000 in the week ended Sept. 19, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. Continuing claims — the total number of Americans claiming ongoing unemployment assistance in those programs — declined 167,000 to 12.6 million in the week ended Sept. 12, which coincides with the reference period for the government’s monthly jobs report.

Read more: Bloomberg’s TOPLive blog on the jobless claims data

Economists expected initial claims of 840,000 and continuing claims of 12.3 million, according to median estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

The still-elevated number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits points to a labor market that’s struggling to recover. Initial jobless claims fell in last week’s report, but the latest uptick shows a choppy pattern of gains and losses as some businesses hire or bring back workers, while others reduce staffing. Millions are still unemployed or are at risk of job loss as businesses struggle to stay afloat with no additional government stimulus in sight.

Economists are projecting that next week’s monthly jobs report — the last before November’s presidential election — will show slower gains than in prior months. The median estimate of analysts is for employers to add 900,000 to payrolls in September, compared with 1.37 million in August.

On an unadjusted basis, state continuing claims fell by 1.6 million between the reference weeks for the August and September job reports. Economists have been incorporating this calculation into their estimates for the monthly employment numbers.

*story by Bloomberg