WASHINGTON, June 21 The number of Americans
filing new claims for unemployment benefits was little changed
last week, according to government data on Thursday that
suggested the labor market was struggling to regain momentum.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000
to a seasonally adjusted 387,000, the Labor Department
said. The prior week's figure was revised up to 389,000 from the
previously reported 386,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to
380,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims,
considered a better measure of labor market trends, increased
3,500 to 386,250 - the highest level since early December.
The claims data covered the survey week for June's nonfarm
payrolls and the report pointed to little or no improvement on
May's paltry 69,000 count. Claims rose 15,000 between the May
and June survey periods.
Labor market weakness prompted the Federal Reserve on
Wednesday to ease monetary policy further by extending a program
to re-weight bonds it already holds toward longer maturities to
hold down borrowing costs.
The so-called Operation Twist, which was due to expire this
month and will now run through the end of the year, was expanded
by $267 billion. Much of the recent weakness in the labor market
has been due to a decline in hiring.