US weekly jobless claims rise
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WASHINGTON, Feb 21 AFP
February 22 2013, 02:20AM
New claims for US unemployment benefits rose last week after two straight weeks of decline.
Initial jobless claims rose to 362,000 in the week ending February 16, from the prior week's revised reading of 342,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Last week's increase in claims was bigger than the average analyst estimate of 358,000, but did not totally erase the declines of the previous two weeks.
Weekly claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, have trended between 330,000 and 375,000 since early December as the job market slowly improves amid a sluggish economy.
The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility, climbed for the second consecutive week, rising 2.3 per cent to 360,750, its highest level in more than a month.
According to the latest official data, the US unemployment rate was 7.9 per cent in January.
The Federal Reserve, in the minutes of its January monetary policy meeting released on Wednesday, was debating whether it should pull the plug on its open-ended $US85 billion ($A83 billion) asset purchases program even before the labour market has "substantially" improved.