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US jobless claims hit 9-week high

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US jobless claims unexpectedly rose to a nine-week high, as seasonal volatility emanating from the Easter weekend may have impacted data collection.

US jobless claims increased by 14,000 to 344,000 last week, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median estimate of economists called for new jobless applications fall to 319,000 in the week ending April 26.

The four-week moving average also increased, from 317,000 to 320,000. The previous week’s average was revised up from 316,750 to 317,000, official data showed.

Weekly jobless claims capture the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits. The reading is used to measure ongoing developments in the US labour market.

Today’s numbers are likely a correction from the excessively low figures released by the Labor Department in recent weeks. In April new applications fell to the lowest level since May 2007, a sign employers were ready to increase hiring.

A separate report today from the Commerce Department showed personal spending in March rose at the fastest pace since August 2009, led by a surge in automobile sales. Personal spending rose 0.9 percent in March, official data showed. Increased spending is a reflection of stronger consumer confidence and improved labour market conditions.

The Labor Department on Friday could show US employers added more than 200,000 private payrolls in April, according to forecasts. The ADP Institute reported earlier this week US employers added 220,000 private jobs in April, the strongest pace of hiring since November.

Friday’s report is also expected to show unemployment at 6.6 percent, down from 6.7 percent a month earlier.

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