New claims for unemployment benefits jumped 66,000 in the week ending last Saturday, according to the weekly report from the U.S. Department of Labor. The total rose to 374,000 from a prior week total of 308,000. Economists were expecting a rise to 310,000.
A recalcitrant computer system in California gets much of the blame. The system is responsible for delays in processing claims that were filed in previous weeks and are just showing up now. Basically that means the numbers are quite unreliable, but they are the best we have.
The report does not include federal government employees who have been furloughed as a result of the government shutdown. Federal employees file for jobless benefits under a separate program and are not included in the Labor Department's weekly report.
The average of new claims for the past four weeks rose from 305,000 to 325,000, but continuing claims dropped by 16,000, from 2.921 million to 2.905 million.
Going into the federal government shutdown that began on October 1, new jobless claims were at or near their lowest point since the U.S. economic recovery began.