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Quick Hits: Sudden Spike in Unemployment

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Unemployment claims unexpectedly rose last week, the US Labor Department reports.

The increase in newly laid-off workers filing for benefits followed 3 weeks of declines.

New applications for unemployment insurance climbed to a seasonally adjusted 444,000, an increase of 15,000 from the previous week. Economists expected the total to dip to 420,000.

The increase in workers seeking unemployment benefits may suggest a slowing job market, but no great conclusions should be reached on a single week's data. The 4-week moving average dipped to 438,000, down 3,250 from the previous week.

For the same week last year, initial jobless claims stood at 320,000.

The number of workers continuing to receive unemployment benefits increased to 3.44 million for the week ending August 23, up 6,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported.

In a separate report, the Labor Department said productivity, or the amount of output for every hour of work, increased at a 4.3% annual rate in the second quarter. That was a full percentage point higher than expected.

Labor costs fell 0.5%. The combination of increased productivity and lower production costs may help ease inflation.
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