WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The number of Americans filing jobless claims held steady last week and rose slightly to 320,000, as the effects of the severe weather seem to be easing.
The number of people filing for first-time claims rose by 5000 from the previous week's figure of 315,000. The median forecast according to 41 economists polled by Bloomberg was an increase to 322,000. This modest rise helped the four-week moving average decrease by 3,500 to 327,000 claims.
“Claims remain extremely encouraging,” said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “They’re signaling that the net slowing in payrolls gains in the last few months is weather-related and temporary, and we’re due for some catch-up in payrolls over the next couple months.”
Bitter cold weather and relentless snowstorms slowed down demand during the winter months and created volatility in the labor market, leading to elevated claims. But as demand grows and dismissal rates continue to fall, employers will be more comfortable to step up hiring.
The report comes a day after the Federal Reserve announced a reduction in its bond-buying program, and said that despite the winter lull there was strength in the economy to help boost the prospects of the labor market.
"Progress in the labor market has been more rapid than we had anticipated," Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.2 percent in the week ended March 8. Thirty states and territories reported an increase in claims while 22 reported a decline.