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US jobless claims elevated in 2nd shutdown week

A sign posted on a shopfront window offers employment opportunity to happy and creative people on October 22, 2013 in Pasadena, California
A sign posted on a shopfront window offers employment opportunity to happy and creative people on October 22, 2013 in Pasadena, California

US jobless claims remained high for the second week of the government shutdown, but fell from the previous week, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the week to October 19 were 350,000, lower than the revised 362,000 filed the prior week.

The data covered the final days of the 16-day partial government shutdown that began on October 1, when hundreds of thousands of federal workers were furloughed without pay due to the impasse in Congress over the budget.

While the data was not broken down for the week, data from the prior two weeks show a huge surge in claims from federal employees, around 70,000 for the week to October 5 and over 44,000 the following week.

Normally federal employee claims number in the low thousands each week.

That surge pushed the four-week moving average for claims to 348,250 last week, compared with the 330,000 range in August and in September when data was distorted by delayed claims from several states, to below 310,000.

With the government back to work on October 17, the claims from federal workers should fall and analysts hope to see the data trend settle to provide a more clear indication of the pace of layoffs and the strength of the jobs sector.

"This is a pretty distorted period so we have to look beyond that," said Jennifer Lee, economist at BMO Capital Markets.

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