) -- The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits grew a bit more than expected last week, according to a government report released Thursday.
Initial claims grew by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000 during the week ended Jan. 9. That sum came in slightly more than consensus forecasts calling for a rise to 437,000 from the previous week's 434,000 pre-revised total, according to estimates provided by Briefing.com.
"Weekly labor market data also failed to impress this morning," wrote PNC Financial chief economist Stuart Hoffman. "Seasonal adjustment factors are often suspect this time of year, given holidays and weather patterns, and even more so now after the distortions introduced into the data stream by massive layoffs one year ago."
After stripping out seasonal adjustments, initial claims actually climbed higher by 156,165 to 801,086 last week. That compares to a year ago when initial claims hit 956,791.
But the four-week moving average, which tends to smooth out wild week-to-week fluctuations, fell to its lowest point since August 2008, dropping by 9,000 to 440,750.
Continuing claims also fell to 4.596 million for the week ended Jan. 2 compared with 4.807 million during the week before.
Several companies continued cutting jobs this week. News reports said
began laying off another 1,200 employees, while
subsidiary Electric Boat could cut between 400 to 600 jobs this year.
Last Friday, the government said that employers shed 85,000 jobs in December. But nonfarm payrolls also added 4,000 jobs in November, the first positive showing in almost two years. The nation's unemployment rate held at 10%.
--Written by Sung Moss in New York