Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States rose above the consensus expectation to 478k in the week ending Oct. 18, up from the previous week's upwardly revised 463k level, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday. Continuing claims rose to 3.720 million for the week ending Oct. 11.

Initial jobless claims were expected to rise to 468k. Last week's figure was revised up by 2k to 463k.

Due in part to regulations extending benefits, as well as the impact of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, jobless claims hit a seven-year high of 499k three weeks ago.

The four-week moving average for initial claims is now 480k, down slightly from 485k last week.

Continuing claims were expected to come in at 3.715 million for the week ending Oct. 11, following the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 3.726 million.

Continuing claims have been above the 3 million mark for 24 consecutive weeks. The four-week moving average is now 3.680 million, up from the moving average of 3.636 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, although economists agree those effects are beginning to wear off.

Just prior to the release, Ralf Umlauf from Helaba Research said, "While the initial jobless claims have declined slightly of late, they remain at recession level. An improvement in the situation is not foreseeable at present."

By Patrick McGee and edited by Nancy Girgis
©CEP News Ltd. 2008