Jobless claims rose 4.6% last week
Initial jobless claims rose about 4.6% last week, moving back above the 400,000 threshold most economists believe indicate the economy is expanding and jobs growth is strengthening. The Labor Department said the seasonally adjusted figure of actual initial claims for the week ended Jan. 1 increased by 18,000 to 409,000 from the previous week's 391,000 that was revised upward by a few thousand. Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected jobless claims to come in at 412,000 with a range of estimates from 400,000 to 415,000. A Briefing.com survey projected new claims of 415,000 for last week. The four-week moving average decreased by 3,500 to 410,750 claims from a revised average of 414,250. The moving average, which is considered a less volatile indicator than weekly claims, continues to drop and is at the lowest point since July 2008. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate remained flat at 3.3% for the week ended Dec. 25. The total number of people receiving some sort of federal unemployment benefits declined by nearly 92,300 to about 8.77 million for the week ended Dec. 18, according to the Labor Department. On Wednesday, Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported private-sector employment rose a record 297,000 jobs in December. It was the largest monthly gain since ADP began tracking the data in 2000. Although some analysts are leery of the figure, including Macroeconomic Advisers, which put the report together for ADP. TrimTabs Invesment Research estimates the U.S. economy added 135,000 jobs last month based on analysis of daily income tax deposits to the Treasury from all salaried employees. Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs, said "QE2, the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut have made companies more comfortable hiring." Write to Jason Philyaw.