U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Rise Slightly More Than Expected

The Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a modest increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended March 25th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 198,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 191,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 196,000.

“Initial jobless claims ticked slightly higher last week, but remained below 200k, where they’ve been for 10 of last 11 weeks, a level consistent with still tight labor markets,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

She added, “A tight labor market will lead to further rate hikes from the Fed, although the FOMC is likely to proceed more cautiously given the uncertain impact on the economy from the recent stress in the banking system.”

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also crept up to 198,250, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 196,250.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also edged up by 4,000 to 1.689 million in the week ended March 18th.

The four-week moving average of continued claims also climbed to 1,691,750, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,681,750.

Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly employment report for March.

Economists currently expect employment to slip by 8,000 jobs in March after surging by 311,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate is expected to dip to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent.

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