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US Jobless Rate Up - 2003-10-02

New figures from the Labor Department show many jobless Americans are still having trouble finding work.

The Labor Department says 399,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, up 13,000 from the week before, while the total number of jobless people receiving assistance stands at 3.7 million, the highest level in more than three months.

The Labor Department says the spike in filings can be attributed, in part, to people who could not file the previous week in regions of the country struck by Hurricane Isabel, which forced many government offices to close. Despite last week's increase, the four-week moving average for unemployment benefits claims fell by 5,000 to just more than 403,000.

Economists view any number above 400,000 as a sign of a weak labor market.

Jobless claims have remained high, despite signs that an overall economic recovery is under way in the United States. The economy grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter of this year, and many economists are predicting four percent growth by the end of the year.

Even so, analysts say U.S. businesses will wait until growth translates into healthy profit margins before adding significantly to their payrolls.