Jobless data suggests slowdown in job creation

Thu Apr 19, 2012 12:53pm EDT
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits for the first time fell only slightly last week, suggesting that job growth in April will not improve much after March's disappointing performance.

Other data on Thursday showed factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region slowed sharply this month and home resales dropped for a second straight month in March.

Economists viewed the string of weak reports as payback after an abnormally warm winter boosted activity and did not believe that the economy would suffer a repeat of 2011, when growth slowed down sharply in the first half of the year.

"The economy really benefited from the mild winter in the first quarter. There is no immediate concern that the recovery is in serious jeopardy," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

"We will see the economy slow a notch, but I don't think we are going to see the sharp deceleration that we saw last year."

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week's data was revised to show 8,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose to 2-1/2 month high.

In a separate report, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its Mid-Atlantic business activity index fell to 8.5 this month from 12.5 in March. A reading above zero indicates expansion in the region's manufacturing sector.   Continued...

Job seekers attend a large career fair at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar