Holiday Season Brings Surge in Jobless Claims

Over the week of Thanksgiving, the number of U.S. workers applying for jobless benefits climb to their highest level in over a year.

The number of U.S. workers applying for jobless benefits climbed to their highest level in over a year, according to the Labor Department report released November 29.

With 357,000 seasonally-adjusted claims logged, up from a revised 323,000 the week before, first time claims for state unemployment benefits rose 34,000 during the Thanksgiving week ending Nov. 25.

The actual number of claims fell by less than anticipated last week, but when seasonally adjusted, the news was more menacing.

The four-week moving average, considered a less volatile measure because it compensates for weekly fluctuations, rose to 325,000 from 317,750.

The Thanksgiving holiday and start of the holiday season was considered a factor in the highest number of jobless claims since Oct. 8, 2005. Many companies have temporary layoffs over the holiday season. In addition, many anticipate only bigger numbers in the coming weeks due to the slipping real estate market.

"Some might think that jobs are more secure this time of year, assuming that employers with the holiday spirit will postpone job cuts. Unfortunately, these numbers indicate that job security is by no means assured this year," said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a New York-based global outplacement consultancy, in a statement.

According to data compiled by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, since Thanksgiving, Pfizer cut 2,400 jobs, and 38,000 Ford employees accepted buyouts taking effect in January. In addition, 7,000 jobs have been lost due to the closing of 20 New York hospitals.

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Challengers data shows that the health care industry has eliminated 22,000 jobs through October, and pharmaceuticals have cut 11,100.

"What is most worrisome about the most recent cuts is that it appears that the slowdown, which has been concentrated in automotive and housing-related industries, is expanding to other areas of the economy," said Challenger.

"Health care and pharmaceutical companies have resisted downsizing for so long that they seemed virtually untouchable."

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