Economists generally expected new claims for unemployment insurance to hold at about 290,000 last week. Actually initial claims rose to 303,000 for the week ending March 4, some 8,000 above the previous week's revised figure of 295,000 claims, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Mar. 9. Layoffs in manufacturing, construction and transportation accounted for much of the increase.
The department's four-week moving average, a better indicator of underlying labor market conditions because it smooths out week-to-week changes, rose by 6,250 claims last week to 293,500. However, this still suggests a relatively strong labor market exists.