Jobless Claims Rose to 318,000 Last Week

WASHINGTON - The number of initial claims for U.S. jobless aid filed last week rose 2,000, while a more reliable barometer of labor trends climbed to its highest level in two months, government data showed on Thursday.

First-time applications for state unemployment insurance benefits rose to 318,000 in the week ended June 30 from an upwardly revised 316,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.

Wall Street analysts had forecast a rise in claims to 315,000 from an initial reading of 313,000 in the week ended June 23.

"The job numbers look pretty good coming out of a month when we had pretty high energy prices," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics in New York.

"Now...with fairly mild summer weather, retailers are having problems selling seasonal items which could hold back seasonal hiring," he added.

U.S. Treasury debt prices were little changed at lower levels after the claims report, having earlier fallen in response to weaker euro zone debt and a private sector report on jobs growth which was stronger than expected.

Stock futures also were little changed.

The closely watched four-week moving average of claims, which flattens the more volatile weekly fluctuations, rose for the sixth straight week to its highest level since April 28. The four-week average rose to 318,500 from 316,750.

The number of people continuing to draw benefits after an initial week of aid jumped 84,000 to 2.57 million in the week ended June 23, the latest period for which figures were available, and to its highest level since mid-April.

A separate report released earlier showed U.S. private employers added 150,000 jobs in June. Economists had expected the report from ADP Employer Services, which is based on private-sector payroll data, to show an increase of only 100,000 new jobs.

Meanwhile, a report by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed planned U.S. layoffs plunged 22 percent in June, underscoring a solid labor market.

Financial markets are now turning their attention to Friday's release of the government's June employment report, which will give a broader look at labor market conditions throughout the United States.

Economists forecast June's unemployment rate will remain unchanged at 4.5 percent with 120,000 jobs created outside the farm sector. That compares with 157,000 jobs created May.