Computer update continues to muddle US jobless claims
By Jason Lange, ReutersWASHINGTON--The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week, but it was difficult to get a clear read on the labor market's health because two states appeared to be working through a backlog of unprocessed claims.
September 20, 2013, 12:21 am TWN
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 309,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims data have been thrown into disarray since an update to government computer systems in California, the nation's most populous state, and Nevada created a backlog in the processing of new claims two weeks ago.
That initially led to a sharp decline in new processed claims earlier this month, and a Labor Department analyst said the two states still appeared to be working through the backlog, which he said could take another week or two.
If taken at face value, the data hinted at a pickup in hiring during September that might make the Federal Reserve more comfortable about a plan to begin winding down a bond-buying economic stimulus program.
“This report paints a very encouraging picture on the job separation side of the labor market, which continues to see signs of sustained improvement,” said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities in New York.
At the same time, policymakers have recently appeared more demanding about how much better the outlook for hiring must be before they trim monthly bond purchases.
The U.S. central bank surprised investors on Wednesday by saying it wanted to see clearer signs of an improved labor market outlook before scaling back its stimulus program. Most investors expected the Fed would reduce bond purchases this month.