Jobless Claims Rise by 5,000

Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — New claims for unemployment benefits ticked up last week, after falling sharply the week before, a possible sign that the red-hot labor market may be cooling a bit.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 302,000 Americans filed new claims for jobless benefits for the week ending June 17, up by 5,000 from the previous week. That was the highest level since June 3 when claims were at 313,000.

Last week's performance surprised analysts, who were predicting that claims would fall slightly.

The more stable four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also rose last week to 300,500. That was the highest level since July 17, 1999, when claims were at 305,250.

The increases — should they be sustained — would be viewed by economists as a welcome sign that the speeding economy is slowing.

Analysts consider claims below 300,000 an indication of a tight labor market, meaning employers are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill job openings.

While that's good for workers, economists find it worrisome. They fear that employers will recruit workers with big increases in wages and benefits, increased costs that companies could pass along to consumers in the form of higher prices.

The Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates six times since last June to slow the supercharged economy and keep inflation under control.

Economists are divided over whether the Fed will raise rates again when they meet next week. A number of recent economic reports, including unemployment, home sales and retail sales, indicate that the economy is slowing a bit.

The nation's unemployment rate ticked up to 4.1 percent in May from 3.9 percent and employers actually cut jobs, something economists viewed as welcome news to the Fed, which has been particularly concerned that the tight labor markets will eventually lead to wage and price inflation.

Thursday's report also said that for the week ending June 10, 37 states and territories reported increases in new jobless claims applications, while 16 reported decreases. The state data lag a week behind the national figures.

The state with the biggest increase was Pennsylvania, up 5,109. Officials blamed the rise on layoffs in the construction, trade, service, electrial equipment, transportation equipment and transportation industries.

Other states with big increases were California, up 4,978; New York, up 2,113; Florida, up 2,030; and Georgia, up 1,936.

The state with the biggest decline in claims was Texas, down 2,398. Officials did not provide a reason for the decrease.

Other states with declines were: Kentucky, down 1,356; Wisconsin, down 905; Alabama, down 849; and Washington, down 315.