Unemployment applications hit 8-month high

WASHINGTON — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits surged last week to the highest level in eight months, a troubling sign a day ahead of the government’s report on April employment.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications rose by 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 last week. But that was largely the result of unusual factors, including a high number of school systems in New York that closed for spring break, the department said.

Still, it marked the third increase in four weeks. Applications have jumped 89,000, or 23 percent, in the past month. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fourth straight week to 431,250.

“The trend is clearly upward, so that’s disconcerting,” said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist for Swiss Re. “When you get three or four weeks in a row of special factors, they’re no longer so special.”

Applications near 375,000 are typically consistent with sustainable job growth. Weekly applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.



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