June 3 (Reuters) – The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance fell as expected last week, government data showed on Thursday, but the number of people still receiving benefits unexpectedly rose to its highest level in nearly two months.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 453,000 in the week ended May 29, the Labor Department said.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 450,000 from the previously reported 460,000, which was slightly revised up to 463,000 in Thursday’s report.
The four-week moving average of new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market trends, rose 1,750 to 459,000.
A Labor Department official said there were no special factors affecting the report. The claims data has no impact on the government’s closely watched employment report for May due on Friday as it falls outside the survey period.
Nonfarm payrolls probably increased 513,000 last month, buoyed by hiring for the decennial census, after a 290,000 increase in April, according to a Reuters survey. That would mark five straight months of job gains.
Although the economy has now grown for three straight quarters following the worst downturn since the 1930s and the recovery is broadening, stubbornly high unemployment is eroding President Barack Obama’s popularity.
It threatens to damage the Democrats at the midterm congressional elections in November.
While other indicators support views the labor market recovery is firming, claims for jobless benefits remain above levels usually associated with sustainable employment growth.
The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid unexpectedly rose 31,000 to 4.67 million in the week ended May 22, the highest since early April, the Labor Department said. The level was above market expectations for 4.60 million.
The insured unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of the insured labor force that is jobless, was unchanged at 3.6 percent for a seventh straight week. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)