Applications for jobless benefits increased by 17,000 for the week ending December 15, bringing the total to 361,000, up from last week’s revised figure of 344,000, the Labor Department announced on Thursday.
It's the first time this measure has risen in five weeks.
The four-week moving average, a “less volatile” figure, decreased by 13,750, bringing the total to 367,750, down from last week’s revised average of 381,500.
“The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending December 8, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate,” reads the Labor Department report.
“The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 8 was 3,225,000, an increase of 12,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,213,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,240,500, a decrease of 33,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,274,000,” the report adds.
The states with the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 15 were California (+5,952), Florida (+749), Ohio (+743), Rhode Island (+197), and Colorado (+161).
Meanwhile, New York (-11,295), Pennsylvania (-11,247), North Carolina (-8,564), Wisconsin (-5,726) and Georgia (-5,317) posted the biggest decreases in initial claims.
"Job gains so far this year have averaged 151,000 per month, a pattern that is likely to hold through December amid fears the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration could fail to agree on a deal to prevent tighter fiscal policy next year," Reuters notes.
"About $600 billion in government spending cuts and higher taxes could be pulled out of the economy in early 2013, and tip it back into recession unless an agreement is reached on a less punitive plan to reduce budget deficits," the report adds.
Nothing "unusual” contributed to today's data, according to a Labor Department official.
"It seems some sense of normality has returned to the initial claims numbers, if that could ever be the case," writers at Zero Hedge note.
"This week's data remains below the year's average, though not by much, and the trend of claims falling appears to have almost entirely stalled this year from the hope-driven moves of the previous two years," they add.
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