updated 10/1/2009 8:53:17 AM ET 2009-10-01T12:53:17
BREAKING NEWS

First-time claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week in the U.S., a sign employers are reluctant to hire and the job market remains weak.

Major Market Indices

The Labor Department says initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to a seasonally adjusted 551,000 from 534,000 in the previous week. Wall Street economists expected an increase of 5,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Ohio reported one of the largest drops in claims.

The nationwide increase comes after three weeks of declines. Weekly claims have been trending down since the spring, but the decline has been painfully slow. The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations, dropped to 548,000, about 110,000 below its peak in early April.

The number of people remaining on the rolls fell 70,000 to 6.09 million, the lowest level since the week of April 4.

Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire new workers.

The claims data precedes the September unemployment report due Friday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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