Sep 13, 2012 11:24 AM EDT

Unemployment Benefits Claims Continue To Rise; More Americans In Need Of Work

Initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week to the highest level since mid-July, another sign of the struggling recovery that could provide more impetus for the Federal Reserve to launch a new round of economic stimulus.

Jobless claims increased 15,000 in the week ended Sept. 8, the biggest gain in almost two months, to 382,000, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 370,000 claims. Tropical Storm Isaac resulted in about 9,000 applications for benefits, the agency said.

Since the week ending July 14, 388,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits.

"The labor market continues to be disappointing," said Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, who projected claims would rise to 380,000. "We'd like to see the hiring side pick up. Companies are very cautious given all the uncertainty."

The weekly figures, although seasonally adjusted, can be volatile. But the more stable four-week moving average was 375,000, up 3,250 from last week, and well above the 350,000 level that economists said is consistent with strong job growth.

Some businesses are still trimming staff. Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest personal-computer maker, this week expanded the total job cuts under its reorganization plan announced in May to 29,000, more than the 27,000 it had originally disclosed. The reductions will take place through fiscal year 2014, the Palo Alto, California-based company said.

Coming on the heels of the disappointing August jobs report, the weekly jobless claims figures add fuel to the expectations that the Fed will announce another bond-buying program today.

The jobless rate has been stuck above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in monthly records going back to 1948.

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