28 August 2003, 16:40  US jobless claims inch higher in latest week

WASHINGTON, Aug 28 - New U.S. claims for jobless benefits inched higher last week, boosted by lingering effects of the blackout, the government said on Thursday in a report that still suggested a slowly improving job market. The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits, an early read on the resilience of the labor market, rose 3,000 to 394,000 in the Aug. 23 week from a revised 391,000 in the prior week. The gentle rise was slightly above market expectations for 390,000 new claims.
A Labor spokesman said the blackout two weeks ago in the northeast states accounted for about 2,000 to 3,000 new claims, which were delayed because they could not be filed during the power failure. The four-week moving average, seen by experts as a better guide to underlying labor market trends because it smooths out fluctuations in the volatile weekly data, rose to 396,250 claims in the Aug. 23 week from 395,750. It marked the fourth consecutive week in which the moving average was below the key 400,000 mark viewed as a sign of an improving job market.//

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