Initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending September 3 declined to a seasonally adjusted 319,000, some 1,000 fewer than the week before, the U.S. Labor Department reported on September 8. The number of claims could rise dramatically in coming weeks, however, as Hurricane Katrina's impact on employment becomes clearer. The department's next claims report is due out on Sept. 15.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department's four-week moving average for initial claims edged up by 2,000 last week to 318,500. But that figure is no cause for alarm, because the average number of claims remains relatively low.