WASHINGTON - The number of new people signing up for unemployment benefits rose last week. But even with the increase, claims are hovering at a level that points to a recovery in the jobs market.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance increased by a seasonally adjusted 12,000 to 352,000 for the week ending June 5.
Local unemployment figures lag the national numbers and are compiled monthly. Data released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor showed 103 people in the Augusta-Aiken metro area filed first-time unemployment claims in April, a 10 percent increase from the previous month. Macon was the only other Georgia metro area to post an increase in initial jobless claims during the period.
Major job losses in the five-county Augusta area during April included the closure of the Click Dot Care call center, formerly FutureCall, which put 350 people out of work. Initial filings could remain high during the summer as the Hoffmaster napkin and tissue plant begins laying off 70 workers in preparation for its July 18 closure.
Although the national increase in filings comes after two straight weeks of declines, the 352,000 level of claims is still well below the 424,000 filed for the same week a year ago, showing that the layoffs picture has improved considerably from last year.
Last year, claims reached a high of 444,000 in the middle of April and have slowly drifted downward.
Economists were expecting claims to fall last week. Filings for last week, however, covered the period including the Memorial Day holiday, a time - as in all holiday weeks - that can present difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal factors, a Labor Department analyst said.
The number of people who have been drawing unemployment insurance fell by 106,000 to 2.88 million for the week ending May 29, the most recent period for which that information is available. That marked the lowest level in so-called "continued" claims since the week ending May 19, 2001.
"This provides some confirmation that hiring has picked up, so that those receiving jobless benefits are finding work more quickly and dropping out of the tally," said Steven Stanley, the chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital.
The Federal Reserve also reported Thursday that U.S. households saw their net worth in the first quarter of this year rise to a record $45.15 trillion, partly reflecting higher home values.
With the economy growing and the labor market in recovery, economists widely expect the Fed will boost short-term interest rates for the first time in four years at its next meeting June 29-30. Most economists are expecting a one-quarter percentage point increase.
The state's seven metro areas reported the following change in initial unemployment claims from April to May: Albany: Claims unchanged at 410.
Athens: Down 34, or 8.1 percent, from 419 to 385.
Atlanta: Down 586, or 4.2 percent, from 13,889 to 13,303.
Augusta: Up 103, or 10 percent, from 1,033 to 1,136.
Columbus: Down 102, or 12.1 percent, from 846 to 744.
Macon: Up 74, or 6.9 percent, from 1,078 1,152.
Savannah: Down 161, or 15.6 percent, from 1,033 to 872.
Source: Georgia Department of Labor