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Unemployment filing up, takes it toll on stock market

Wednesday morning’s press conference with Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke was greeted unenthusiastically, as many in the press said the event contained little substance. Still, some news this morning may come as an unwelcome surprise to anyone who went along with Bernanke’s mild optimism. Unemployment figures have taken a downward turn, according to official Labor Department statistics.

The AP reports:

More people sought unemployment benefits last week, the second rise in three weeks, a sign the job market’s recovery is slow and uneven.

Applications for unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 for the week ending April 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the highest total since late January.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose to 408,500, its third straight rise and the first time it has topped 400,000 in two months.

Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustained job creation. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

It’s not even clear what has caused the rise in unemployment filings. Other data indicate that hiring is up and layoffs are down at companies across the country. The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits, meanwhile, dropped by 100,000 to 8.2 million earlier this month, according to the most recent data available. Of course, that could have more to do with the ever-climbing average length of unemployment putting people out of work for longer than their benefits last than any positive economic indicators.

Stock market futures took a slight tumble following the release of the statistics. The futures market can be read as a sign of investor confidence.

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