Unemployment claims surge in US

The number of Americans filing for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly surged last week to the highest level in a month, government figures showed. First-time jobless claims increased by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 337,000 in the week ended 31 May, the Labor Department said. Analysts had expected the number of new claims to hold steady at 322,000. The latest four-week average of new claims, however, has fallen from 326,500 to 323,750. "The four-week average is down. So there is still no evidence of a cyclical slackening in labor markets," said David Munro, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics in New York.

Investors are watching for the Labor Department's May employment report to give them a more complete picture of US job growth. That report, scheduled for release today, is expected to show the economy added 225,000 jobs last month, up from April's gain of 142,000 jobs. The unemployment rate probably rose to 5.0 per cent from April's 4.9 per cent, which was the lowest in 23 years.

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