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Applications for jobless benefits rise

Economic growth slowed in the first three months of 2011, the Commerce Department says. Above, a New York jobs fair. Economic growth slowed in the first three months of 2011, the Commerce Department says. Above, a New York jobs fair. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)
By Associated Press
April 29, 2011

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WASHINGTON — More people sought unemployment benefits last week, the second rise in three weeks. Applications jumped by 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000, the Labor Department said — the highest total since January.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 408,500, its third straight rise and the first time it has topped 400,000 in two months. Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustained job creation. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

Economists attributed the increase to difficulties in seasonally adjusting the data around the Easter holidays. Since the timing of Easter changes each year, the data can be volatile.

“Given these technical factors, we are inclined to dismiss the recent backup,’’ said Carl Riccadonna, an economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “We will be looking for claims to move back below 400,000 in early May.’’ Others were more concerned. Ryan Wang, at HSBC Securities, noted the four-week average has increased by 20,000 in the past month.

“Minor seasonal distortions are not a good reason to dismiss the underlying increase in jobless claims,’’ Wang wrote. “This is a big enough increase to merit some concern.’’