9:18 AM EDT, October 18, 2012
First-time claims for unemployment benefits are on a roller coaster. The number snapped back up last week, after falling to a four-year low the week before.
About 388,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended October 13, up 46,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The last two weeks have swung dramatically in both directions, with initial claims first dropping to a revised 342,000, the lowest level in four years, and then suddenly popping back up last week.
The large swings illustrate just how volatile the data are from week to week, which is why economists often prefer to look at a four-week moving average.
That indicator increased to 365,500 last week and has been hovering in the 360,000 to 380,000 range since July.
Meanwhile, about 3.3 million Americans continued to file for their second week of unemployment benefits in the week ended October 6, the most recent data available.
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