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After soaring the previous week, applications for first-time claims for unemployment benefits returned to near their lower range this year for the week ending April 6, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. The seasonally adjusted initial claims were 346,000, down 42,000 from the revised figure for the week ending March 30. The number was far below the consensus of experts surveyed ahead of time just as last week's was far above. The less volatile four-week running average rose to 358,000.

Observers, including me, who said the previous week's sharp climb might be due to early consequences of the budget sequester got it wrong. About the latest numbers, Reuters reported:

Differences in the timing of Easter and school spring breaks, which likely threw off the model used to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations,  for the spike in claims during the week ended March 30.

A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there was nothing unusual in the state-level data. He noted, however, that the floating Easter holiday and spring breaks continued to pose challenges for the so-called seasonal factor. [...]

Economists say there is little evidence so far to suggest that the spending cuts which took hold on March 1 were hurting the labor market, noting the weakness in payroll growth last month had not been confined to sectors expected to be hard hit by the budget cuts.

Seasonal factors are likely to continue for several weeks.

For the week ending March 23, the total number of people claiming benefits in both state and federal emergency benefits programs fell to 5,277,512. For the comparable week of 2012, that figure was 6,952,894. The year-to-year drop is a measure of people getting jobs and exhausting their benefits.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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