WASHINGTON - A surprising jump in first-time claims for unemployment aid sent a painful reminder yesterday that jobs remain scarce six months into the economic recovery.
The surge in last week's claims deflated hopes among some analysts that the economy would produce a net gain in jobs in January and help fuel the recovery.
A separate report yesterday from the privately run Conference Board offered a more positive look on future economic activity. It said its index of leading economic indicators jumped 1.1 percent in December, suggesting economic growth could pick up this spring.
The gauge had risen a revised 1 percent in November and has been up for nine consecutive months. The index is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months.
Eight of the 10 components in the index showed improvement in December, with the strongest gains in the so-called interest rate spread and building permits.
In its report on jobless claims, the Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment aid rose by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 482,000.
Wall Street economists had expected a small drop, according to Thomson Reuters.
The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, rose for the first time since August, to 448,250.
Initial claims had dropped steadily since last fall as companies cut fewer jobs.
First-time claims have dropped by 50,000, or nearly 10 percent, since late October.61.22618 12.04389
A surprising jump in first-time claims for unemployment aid sent a painful reminder Thursday that jobs remain scarce six months into the economic recovery.