Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States came well above expectations, rising to 493k in the week ending Sept. 20, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday. Continuing claims rose to 3.542 million for the week ending Sept. 13.

Initial jobless claims were expected to drop to 450 following the previous week's upwardly revised reading of 461k, initially reported at 455k.

This week's figure is still above the four-week moving average for initial claims, which is now 462k, up from 446k last week.

Continuing claims were expected to come in at 3.510 million for the week ending Aug. 30, following the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 3.479 million.

This is the 20th consecutive week that continuing claims have been above the 3 million mark. The four-week moving average is now 3.489 million, up from the moving average of 3.461 million in the previous week.

Claims have recently been higher than normal following new rules introduced by the Department of Labor that made filing for unemployment benefits easier, as well as effects from recent hurricanes.

Prior to the release, Christopher Rupkey, chief financial economist from Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, noted that initial unemployment claims have been above 425K for eight weeks.

"The latest week may have been affected by hurricanes, and the extension of benefits for a maximum of 6 to 9 months may still have boosted the data as well," he said.

By Stephen Huebl
©CEP News Ltd. 2008