U.S. jobless claims edge up; trend signals firmer labor market

Thu Apr 23, 2015 9:07am EDT
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week for a third straight week, but the underlying trend continued to point to a solidly improving labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 295,000 for the week ended April 18, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.

The claims data covered the period during which the government canvassed employers for April's nonfarm payrolls report.

Employment growth slowed sharply in March, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by only 126,000, ending a 12-month stretch of gains above 200,000. But with the weakness mostly concentrated in the weather-sensitive leisure and construction sectors, economists downplayed the slowdown.

Federal Reserve officials have said they would like to see further improvements in the labor market before raising interest rates. Faltering economic growth at the start of the year has made a June rate hike less likely.

The U.S. central bank has kept its short-term interest rate near zero since December 2008.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast jobless claims slipping to 290,000 last week.

U.S. stock index futures extended losses after the data, while prices for U.S. government debt were largely unchanged. The dollar dipped against a basket of currencies.   Continued...

Jessica Kolber (R) shakes hands with a job seeker at a job fair in Burbank, Los Angeles, California March 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson