July 28, 2005

U.S. jobless claims, help-wanted ads rise

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two reports showed on Thursday that
the U.S. job market is improving, if only slowly.

New claims for state unemployment benefits rose 5,000 last
week to 310,000, the Labor Department said. That was below Wall
Street forecasts of a rise to 317,000 and a sharp improvement
from the 340,000 claims in the same period a year earlier.

"The number is a little lower than expected; it shows that
the labor markets are still firm," said Gary Thayer, chief
economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.

"It supports the idea that the economy has gained a little
traction here at the start of the third quarter," Thayer said.

The broadest gauge of the U.S. labor market, the monthly
employment report, will be released Aug. 5. Economists expect
180,000 new jobs in July, while the unemployment rate is
expected to hold at 5.0 percent, according to the median
forecasts of a Reuters survey.

A separate report from The Conference Board showed the
number of help-wanted ads in U.S. newspapers edged up in June
after declining in May.

The private research group said its gauge measuring
help-wanted ad volume in the United States rose to 38 compared
with 37 in May, in line with expectations.

"Hiring intentions have turned more cautious as the economy
is poised to lose some steam in the second half of the 2005,"
Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said in a statement.

While the index inched up in June, help-wanted ads declined
in the last three months in seven of the nine U.S. regions, the
Conference Board said. The steepest decline, 13.1 percent, was
recorded in the Mountain region, comprised of Denver, Phoenix
and Salt Lake City.

The research firm surveys help-wanted ad volume at 51 U.S.
newspapers each month.

While the jobless claims data have been volatile in recent
weeks because of seasonal factors like auto plant retooling and
school-related summer layoffs, a Labor Department analyst said
there were no special factors behind the rise in new claims
last week.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths
weekly volatility to provide a better sense of the pace of
layoffs, fell for the second straight week, dropping to 318,250
from 318,500 in the previous week.

The number of people who remained on the benefit rolls
after drawing an initial week of aid rose 32,000 to 2.6 million
in the week ended July 16, the latest week for which figures
are available.

U.S. Treasury debt prices initially fell after the
lower-than expected jobless claims data. But the declines
brought out bargain-hunters taking positions ahead of Friday's
report on second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product.