(Bloomberg News) More Americans than forecast filed claims for jobless benefits last week, a sign the pace of improvement in the labor market is slowing.
Jobless claims increased 13,000 in the week ended April 7 to 380,000, the highest since Jan. 28, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for 355,000 claims. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those receiving extended payments declined.
A sustained pickup in claims, following last week's figures showing a smaller-than-projected rise in March employment, may make it difficult to boost the consumer spending that makes up 70 percent of the economy. The figures highlight Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's concern that stronger demand is required to fuel labor market gains.
"On the back of last week's employment report, this does suggest momentum in labor market is slowing a bit," said Sean Incremona, a senior economist with 4Cast Inc. in New York, who forecast 372,000 claims, the highest in the Bloomberg survey. "I wouldn't, though, read one claims report and one payrolls report as suggesting that the trend of improvement has stalled."
Claims in the prior week were revised to 367,000 from a previously reported 357,000.
Stock-index futures trimmed gains after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index expiring in June rose 0.2 percent to 1,366.5 at 8:35 a.m. in New York, after rising as much as 0.6 percent earlier.
Estimates of the 46 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 350,000 to 372,000. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figures, increased to 368,500 last week from 364,250.
A Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released that there was "nothing unexpected" in the latest claims data. Incremona said that this week in particular there's a lot of volatility in the seasonal adjustment process that played a part because of the Easter holiday.
The total number of people receiving jobless benefits fell by 98,000 in the week ended March 31 to 3.25 million.
In addition to the jobless claims, the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs decreased by about 34,000 to 3.22 million in the week ended March 24.