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More Americans than forecast file jobless claims

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to a two-month high, interrupting a steady decrease to the lowest level since before the last recession.

Jobless claims climbed by 11,000 to 315,000 in the week ended Sept. 6, which included the Labor Day holiday, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. It was the highest reading since June 28 and exceeded the Bloomberg survey median forecast of 300,000. The data are difficult to adjust during holiday periods, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released.

Initial claims have been hovering near pre-recession lows as the labor market continues to gather strength on the heels of stronger demand. Bigger gains in hiring are probably needed to reduce slack in the labor market and prompt employers to boost wages, which could propel consumer spending.

“Claims have been running around 300,000 for a couple of months now, so I would not regard this as a deterioration in labor demand,” said Omair Sharif, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. “It was during Labor Day holiday, so odds are that there are some seasonal adjustment problems. Underlying labor demand remains very firm, and certainly that is going to help consumer spending going forward.”

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Stock-index futures fell as energy producers declined with the price of oil. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring this month dropped 0.5% to 1,986.1 at 8:43 a.m. in New York.

Estimates from economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 290,000 to 325,000 after a previously reported 302,000 a week earlier.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, increased to 304,000 from 303,250 the week before.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 9,000 to 2.49 million in the week ended Aug. 30.

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In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.9%, the report showed.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically decrease before job growth can accelerate.

U.S. employers added 142,000 workers to their payrolls in August, a slowdown after six straight months of job growth that had exceeded 200,000, a Labor Department report showed last week. The jobless rate edged down to 6.1%.


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