THE number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the trend remained consistent with solid labor market momentum that could keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates this year.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 for the week ended on Saturday, the Labor Department said yesterday.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.
Economists had forecast claims slipping to 272,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the data and no states had been estimated.
Minutes from the Fed’s July 28-29 policy meeting published on Wednesday showed the US central bank upbeat on improving labor market conditions, but worried about persistently tame inflation and a weak global economy.
Economists believe that policy-makers’ concerns about low price pressures have raised the bar for a September interest rate hike. Futures markets on Wednesday trimmed bets for monetary policy tightening next month.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 5,500 to 271,500 last week.
It was the 21st straight week that the four-week average remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labor market.
The claims data covered the week that the government surveyed employers for the non-farm payrolls portion of August’s employment report. The four-week average of claims fell 7,000 between the July and August survey periods, suggesting another month of healthy job gains.
Payrolls increased by 215,000 jobs in July. So far this year, job gains have exceeded 200,000 in five out of seven months. At a seven-year low of 5.3 percent, the unemployment rate is near the 5-5.2 percent range that most Fed officials think is consistent with full employment.