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For the week ending Jan. 26, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment compensation soared to 368,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. That was an increase of 38,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 330,000. Claims numbers have been especially volatile since they rose briefly to a 2012 high after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. In the last two weeks they fell to a five-year low. This week they re-entered the range they were in for all of last year.
As usual, the four-week moving average flattened that volatility, which is why close observers prefer it over the weekly figure. That average rose to 352,000, an increase of 250 from the previous week.
For all programs, state and federally funded emergency extensions, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending Jan. 12 was 5,914,983, up 255,501 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 7,655,224 persons claiming benefits in all programs.
The latest numbers are no predictor of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report on jobs will show when it is released Friday morning because that report only covers data compiled up to Jan. 12.
A consensus of experts surveyed by Bloomberg forecasts that seasonally adjusted job creation clocked in at 185,000 and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in January. But the number of times the consensus has been wrong in the past five years, often way wrong, outnumbers the times it has been right. A report from Automated Data Processing released Wednesday put the seasonally adjusted number of new jobs created in the private sector in January at 192,000. The BLS report covers both private and government jobs.