Shock upturn in US jobless benefit claims

Julian Harris
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CLAIMS for unemployment benefits in the US unexpectedly shot up last week, official data showed yesterday.

New claims have been on a downward path for around two years, but jumped by 27,000 in the week ending 9 April to total 412,000.

Applications for state benefit typically increase at the beginning of a new quarter, as payments are calculated on the basis of the previous four quarters’ earnings.

Yet the degree of volatility still shocked analysts and comes as an unwelcome knock to the US recovery.

“I’d view this as one data point, and a data point that is volatile from week to week,” said Brian Lazorishak of Chase Investment Counsel in Virginia.

“However, one of the positives we’ve had in the past year is continued, albeit slow, improvement in the jobs picture, so any setback there will be discouraging.”

Meanwhile, inflationary pressures were revealed in a separate data release from the bureau of labour statistics.

Core producer prices – which do not include food or energy components – rose 0.3 per cent in March, compared to February.

The jump pushed the annualised rate of core price inflation to 1.9 per cent, the largest gain since August 2009.

“Yet the rise in core prices was all concentrated in light truck prices,” said economist Brian Jones of Societe Generale in New York.

“It could be due to seasonal adjustments and they tend to be volatile. It could even be a pickup in demand.”

The headline producer price index number showed a 0.7 per cent rise in prices on the month, largely driven by energy prices, which surged by 2.6 per cent.

Compared to March last year, the price of finished goods was up 5.8 per cent.