By John S. McClenahen The latest government economic data give credence to the notion that the pace of U.S. recovery from recession will be slower in the current calendar quarter than it was during 2002's first three months. Reversing recent declines, initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 2,000 to 418,000 in the week ending May 11, reveal preliminary data from the U.S. Labor Department's Employment & Training Administration. The figure was significantly above expectations, with many economists looking for the weekly claims figure to drop as applications for extended unemployment benefits tapered off. What's more, initial claims remain above the 400,000 mark, suggesting the U.S. labor market is still soft. Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department says starts for single-family houses in April fell 2% to an annual rate of 1,270,000. March's revised rate was 1,296,000.