WASHINGTON (2/7/14)--Initial jobless claims for the week ending Feb. 1 fell by 20,000 to 331,000, according to Labor Department data published Thursday.
Economists had expected claims to recede, but the decrease was greater than they had expected. Moody's said that "the drop was a little more pronounced" than its analysts had anticipated, while the Wall Street Journal had expected Thursday's numbers to reveal 335,000 new claims (Economy.com, The Wall Street Journal Feb. 6).
The four-week moving average of initial claims rose by 250 to 334,000, after having steadily increased from a recent trough of about 305,000 in late September.
The number of claims for the week that ended Jan. 25 was revised up by 3,000 to 351,000. Continuing claims that week--benefits accrued for more than seven days--rose by 15,000 to 2.96 million. The Jan. 25 continuing claims figure, released for the first time Thursday, showed a net increase of about 200,000 since early December.
States that saw the largest increases in initial filings for the week ending Jan. 25 were Indiana, Massachusetts and Nebraska. New York, Texas and Michigan played host to the largest declines.
Moody's said that the drop in filings for the week ending Feb. 1 might have exceeded expectations because severe weather in the south hindered travel. The winter holidays and snowstorms have "wreaked havoc on the data" in recent months, the ratings and research said. A Labor Department official said, according to The Wall Street Journal, that Kansas claims in the most recent report had to be estimated because bad weather halted data collection in the state.
Moody's analysts also said that other recent surveys indicate that job growth in January--to be reported Friday by the Labor Department--shouldn't greatly differ from previous months. The firm is forecasting an addition of 175,000 workers to the payrolls and for the unemployment rate to slide down to 6.6%. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the numbers to reveal an increase of 189,000 jobs in January, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The paper also said that the Federal Reserve will be closely watching the report on Friday to determine how to proceed with its quantitative easing adjustment. In spite of unexpectedly low jobs numbers for Decemeber--which, The Wall Street Journal said, "was widely dismissed as a fluke caused by unusually cold and stormy weather"--the Fed's Open Market Committee will taper its monthly asset purchases by another $10 billion to $65 billion this month.