First-time jobless claims drop less than expected
A drop in new jobless claims came in short of expectations and factory orders rose only slightly, fresh evidence the economy is recovering at a slow, uneven pace. The Labor Department said this morning that first-time jobless claims dropped by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 470,000. Analysts had expected a steeper drop to 450,000, according to Thomson Reuters. The four week average, which smooths out volatility, rose for the second straight week to 456,250. The average had fallen for 19 straight weeks before starting to rise. Two weeks ago, claims surged by 34,000 due to administrative backlogs left over from the holidays in the state agencies that process the claims, a Labor Department analyst said. Those delays may still be affecting the data, the analyst said. That means the current figures could be artificially inflated. At the same time, it would also mean that the steep drop in claims in late December and early January was also exaggerated by the backlogs. Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire new workers. Separately, orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose 0.3 percent in December, much less than the 2 percent advance economists had been expecting. For all of 2009, durable goods orders plunged by 20.2 percent, the largest drop on records that go back to 1992.