By Laura Conaway
New claims for unemployment insurance rose last week to 558,000, from 554,000 the week before, the Department of Labor reports. Heading into Thursday morning's report, analysts expected new claims to drop to 545,000. They had fallen for six straight weeks.
The four-week moving average, often a more reliable barometer, climbed by 8,500 to 565,000 -- significantly more than the average weekly decline of 6,077 from April 25 to July 25. The figures for July are clouded because of problems with the Department of Labor's formula for calculating new claims. The DOL takes seasonal factors into account, and this year the usual summer layoffs in the auto industry happened in the spring. The DOL says its formula should now be back on track.
Today's report also shows that the number of people on regular unemployment benefits fell to 6.2 million from 6.35 million the week before.
As of July 25, another 2.8 million people were receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a federally funded program that allows for 33 additional weeks of benefits in high-unemployment states. The average job search now lasts 25.1 weeks. The category of those out work longer than 27 weeks was the only duration to show a marked increase.
The overall unemployment rate ticked downward in July, to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent. President Obama and many economists say they expect the rate to climb again, reaching 10 percent at some point this year. That's because people are still losing jobs, though at a slower pace, and companies have not yet started hiring.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS. It showed that as of June 30, job openings were little changed at 2.6 million. The hires rate stood at 2.9 percent, the lowest point since the BLS started tracking it in December 2000.