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--Initial Claims Four-Week Average Down 500 To 218,750 
By Harrison Clarke and Shikha Dave
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - Initial claims U.S. state unemployment benefits 
rose by 10,000 to 231,000 in the December 29 week, above expectations 
for a 220,000 level, data released by the Labor Department Thursday 
     The level of claims was revised upwards to 221,000 in the December 
22 week from the previously reported 216,000 level. Overall, the data 
suggest seasonal adjustment difficulties. 
     A better measure for the underlying trend of the data is the 
four-week moving average for initial claims. The average fell by 500 
to 218,750 in the December 29 week.
     If the number of headline claims does not change next week and 
there are no revisions to data from the past four weeks, the four-week 
average would rise by 6,250 as the 206,000 level in the December 8 week 
rolls out of the calculation. 
     Seasonal adjustment factors had expected an increase of 6.4%, or 
18,779 in unadjusted claims. However, claims actually posted an increase 
of 11.1%, or 32,255, to 323,880. The current week's level was below the 
351,348 level in the comparable week a year ago. 
     The level of continuing claims rose by 32,000 to 1.740 million in 
the December 22 week. Before seasonal adjustment, continuing claims rose 
by 23,711 to 1.789 million, remaining well below the 2.066 million level 
seen in the comparable week last year. 
     The four-week average for continuing claims, which tends to be a  
more reliable measure as continuing claims consistently fluctuate 
week-to-week, rose by 26,000 to 1.704 million. 
     The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held steady at 
1.2% in the December 22 week, down from 1.3% in the same week a year 
earlier, reinforcing that the level of insured unemployment is extremely 
     The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below 
that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are 
approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and 
labor force reentrants included in the monthly report. 
     ** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 ** 

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