The research firm Wrightson ICAP said ahead of the claims announcement, "With the sequester beginning to bite at this point, the market must take any upticks in initial jobless claims seriously," according to The Wall Street Journal. Some distortion may have been injected into the numbers by Easter, Passover and spring break.
The less volatile four-week moving average rose to 354,250, up 11,250 from the previous week's average of 343,000.
For the week ending March 16, the total number of people claiming benefits in all federally funded and state programs fell to 5,288,614, down 167,165 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 7,050,710 persons claiming benefits in all programs. That drop over the past 12 months is due to people getting jobs or exhausting their benefits.
The sharp increase in first-time claims will not have an impact on the monthly jobs report that the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release Friday because the bureau closes data on those reports on or near the 12th of the month it is reporting on. But, combined with Wednesday's ADP report showing a way-below-consensus addition in private-sector jobs for March and the slowdown in growth reflected in both the ISM's manufacturing and service sector indexes, the first-time claims numbers are worrisome in a labor market that has grown only sluggishly since the Great Recession officially ended almost four years ago.
And in another troubling survey released Thursday, the Challenger job-cut report found employers to be intending 49,255 lay-offs. That's better than February's numbers, but it's far above the 37,880 intended lay-offs reported for March 2012, and could also reflect the effect of the sequester.