U.S. jobless claims fall, mid-Atlantic manufacturing expands

Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:44pm EDT
 
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WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. jobless claims fell last week and mid-Atlantic factory activity kept growing in October, but a just-ended government shutdown as well as computer issues affecting the claims report impeded the data's value as signposts for the economy.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday, slipping from a six-month high the prior week. But the figure was still elevated as California continued to deal with a backlog related to computer problems.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 335,000 last week.

"Jobless claims are still dealing with a lot of computer glitches and other temporary factors. It's hard to extract anything meaningful from them," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist with Sterne Agee & Leach in Chicago.

California's technical problems have been dragging on for a few weeks, but should be transitory. The effects of the recent squabbling in Washington were unclear.

The federal government shut down for the first half of October as Republicans refused to fund government operations without major concessions by the Democrats on President Barack Obama's signature healthcare act, passed three years ago.

That shutdown - along with the threat of default as the nation threatened to hit its borrowing limit - faded with an 11th-hour spending deal by Congress on Wednesday. The deal will fund the government through mid-January and raise the country's borrowing authority until February 7.

A Labor Department analyst said there had not been a perceptible increase in filings last week from non-federal workers furloughed because of the government shutdown.

During the week ended October 5, the first week of the shutdown, there were 70,068 claims from furloughed federal workers. Claims for federal workers are reported separately and with a one-week lag.   Continued...

 
Job seekers line up as they wait for an interview during the 8th job forum dedicated to recruiting in Nice February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard