Energy price cuts are leading to more layoffs in shale heavy states like Texas and Pennsylvania, pushing initial jobless claims back above the psychological watermark of 300,000 to 304,000, missing expectations by the most in a month.

Jobless claims data have been choppy week to week but the underlying trends are favorable.

Initial claims rose 25,000 in the February 7 week to a higher-than-expected 304,000 but the 4-week average actually fell, down for a 3rd straight week to a 289,750 level that is about 10,000 lower than a month ago.

Continuing claims in the January 31 week fell 51,000 to 2.354 million while the 4-week average fell 19,000 to 2.404 million. The unemployment rate for insured workers is unchanged at a recovery low of 1.8%. 

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