Jobless Claims Decline Sharply

By John S. McClenahen The U.S. economy may not be generating the number of jobs economists were predicting a month ago or that the Bush administration is still hoping for. But last week, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to an unexpected low of 310,000, some 39,000 below the previous week's revised figure of 349,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported July 8. Economists generally expected the jobless claims figure for the week ending July 3 to come in at 340,000. The department's closely watched four-week moving average for initial claims, which smoothes out week-to-week changes, also moved down dramatically last week, falling to 336,000 a decrease of 10,250 from the previous week. However, cautions Merrill Lynch & Co., New York: "Because it is so hard to seasonally adjust the claims data this time of year, we would not read too much into this sharp decline."

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