The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits increased by 68,000 for the week ending Dec. 7, bringing the total to 368,000, up from last week’s revised figure of 300,000, the Labor Department announced Thursday.
After nearly seven straight weeks of declines, the sudden surge in initial claims is both unexpected and worrisome. Analysts had put earlier estimates of the total number of claims at around 320,000. No one expected a jump of 68,000, the greatest increase in nearly nine months.
For its part, the Labor Department blames the increase on "difficulties in seasonal adjusting."
The four-week moving average, a “less volatile” figure, rose by 6,000, bringing the total to 328,750, up from the previous unrevised average of 322,750.
“The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.1 percent for the week ending November 30, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate,” the Labor Department said.
“The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 30 was 2,791,000, an increase of 40,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,751,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,793,500, a decrease of 4,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,798,250,” the Labor Department added.
The states with the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Nov. 30 were Wisconsin (+4,420), Ohio (+2,597), Kentucky (+1,538), Massachusetts (+1,129), and New Jersey (+1,124).
Meanwhile, California (-19,920), Texas (-7,284), Florida (-5,400), Pennsylvania (-5,145), and Nevada (-3,295) posted the biggest decreases in initial claims.
Markets look poised to open lower or mixed:
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This post has been updated.