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Jobless insurance: US claims in surprise rise

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New claims for jobless insurance benefits in the United States rose unexpectedly for the second straight week, the government said Thursday amid concerns unemployment may derail the economic recovery.

Claims climbed to 472,000 in the week to June 12, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 460,000 and the highest level in four weeks, the Labor Department said. Most economists had expected claims to fall to 450,000. “The labor market remains under duress,” said Andrew Gledhill, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com.

“Though it is important not to make too much of a one-week rise, it is illustrative of the failure of claims to move lower in recent months,” he said. After falling through much of 2009, claims have generally remained range-bound in 2010.

The latest Labor Department data also showed a rise in the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits. During the week ending June 5, that figure hit 4.571 million; an increase of 88,000 from the preceding weeks revised level of 4.483 million. The four-week moving average of jobless insurance claims, a less volatile indicator than the week-to-week figures, was 463,500, little changed from the previous week’s revised average of 464,000.

Unemployment stands at nearly 10 percent, posing a major threat to US recovery from the most severe recession in decades. The United States has lost more than eight million jobs since the economy entered recession in December 2007. There is “more evidence that labor market conditions remain tough,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics. “The grim state of small businesses is keeping layoffs relatively high even as bigger companies are hiring,” he said.

Washington, June 17, 2010 (AFP)