New claims for U.S. jobless aid fell a sharp 13,000 last week but another gauge of longer-term labor market trends posted an increase for the second straight week, a government report showed Thursday.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits dropped to their lowest in more than a month, falling 13,000 to 318,000 the week ended Dec. 17 from an upwardly revised 331,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.
The number of claims came in below economists’ projections for 325,000. The original reading for the week ended Dec. 10 was 329,000.
The closely watched four-week moving average of new claims, which flattens weekly volatility to provide a better picture of the job market, fell to 324,500 from 329,250 a week earlier.
While the overall number of claims is trending lower, the number of people who remain on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid continued to rise.
The number of continued claims rose for the second straight week, climbing 41,000 to reach 2.64 million in the week ended Dec. 10, the latest period for which data are available.
A Labor Department analyst said Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma had minimal impact on the report. There were about 700 new claims, unadjusted for seasonal factors, filed last week related to Katrina and Rita, taking the cumulative total of claims related to the Gulf Coast storms to 571,200.
Hurricane Wilma, which hit Florida in late October, prompted 700 new claims last week, for a total of 32,400.
The analyst said the week ended Dec. 17 would be the last week for which the department would report hurricane-related claims.