Initial Jobless Claims Rise 35,000

(Initial claims article updated for analyst commentary, additional information)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The number of Americans filing unemployment claims unexpectedly rose last week, the Labor Department said early Thursday.

The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims increased by 35,000 to 445,000 in the week ended Jan.8, the highest level since October. Economists were expecting initial claims to drop to 405,000, according to consensus estimates from Bloomberg. Estimates ranged from 400,000 to 415,000.

The number of Americans filing continuing claims -- those who have been receiving unemployment insurance for at least a week -- came in significantly lower than expected at 3.87 million for the week ended Jan.1, a decrease of 248,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 4.12 million. Consensus estimates projected continuing claims to drop to 4.08 million from 4.10 million the previous week. The level of continuing claims was the lowest since November 2008.

The four-week moving average in initial claims, which smoothes the volatility in week-to-week reports, was 416,500, an increase of 5,500 from the previous week's revised average of 411,000. The four-week moving average in continuing claims was 4.05 million, a decrease of 72,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 4.056 million.

The claims numbers do not include millions of those who claim benefits under the extended unemployment benefits program. Total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ended Dec.25 was 9.2 million. That is down from nearly 15 million at the peak in 2009.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.1% for the week ending Jan.1, a drop from the previous week's level of 3.3%.

The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF ( DIA) was down 0.3%, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF ( SPY) was down 0.05% and the PowerShares QQQ ( QQQQ) were up marginally in morning trades.

John Canally, economist at LPL Financial, said the initial claims data often tends to be wonky during the first weeks of the year, as holidays tend to disrupt data collection.

"There is a chance the job market could have deteriorated in the last week, but it's hard to get a clean read at this time of the year. I would have been just as skeptical if the claims had fallen to 350,000," said Canally. "Overall the trend is down. Household employment data shows there is not a lot of firing but not more hiring."

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