Jobless Claims Rise by 14,000


Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose for a third straight week, zooming past the level that is viewed as signaling very tight labor markets.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 313,000 laid-off workers filed claims for jobless benefits last week, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week ended Aug. 5.

The seasonally-adjusted number of new claims was markedly higher than most economists' forecasts of around 291,500. It catapulted the claims level above the 300,000-mark that is considered to indicate extremely tight labor markets.

The 313,000 level of jobless claims also was reached on July 15.

The strike by 87,000 technicians and operators for phone company Verizon Communications, which entered its 12th day Thursday, was not reflected in the new claims figures, the Labor Department said.

Striking employees in some states are eligible to receive unemployment benefits after certain periods of time. However, claims by Verizon workers hadn't shown up yet in weekly data submitted by the states, a Labor statistician said.

The Labor Department reported recently that the unemployment rate held steady in July at 4 percent while nongovernment payrolls increased by a modest 138,000.

Even though the jobless rate stayed close to a 30-year low of 3.9 percent posted in April, analysts viewed the smaller increase in private payrolls as an indication that the economy is slowing as desired by the Federal Reserve.

Recent government reports have indicated the economy is slowing.

On Wednesday, the government reported that inflation at the consumer level inched up a mild 0.2 percent last month as gasoline prices eased after soaring in June.

The evidence of reined-in inflation from the Consumer Price Index, and a second report showing housing construction plunging in July, could help persuade Fed policy-makers meeting next Tuesday to leave interest rates unchanged.

The Fed has raised rates six times over the past 14 months in an effort to slow the economy and keep inflation in check. Many economists believe the central bank will wait and see whether those moves are adequate.

In the jobless claims report, the four-week moving average, which helps smooth out weekly variations, was unchanged last week at 290,000, up from 284,000 a year earlier.

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