WASHINGTON -- New applications for unemployment benefits rose last week by the largest amount in two months, suggesting that layoffs are persisting and that employers are reluctant to hire.
The increase of 11,000 first-time jobless claims, to a seasonally adjusted total of 335,000, followed a gain of 2,000 in the previous week, to 324,000, the Labor Department said yesterday.
The jump in claims was the largest since a gain of 43,000 in the week of July 24, to 395,000. It also represented the highest level since 339,000 in the last week of July.
"It's a very choppy labor market," said Marco Babic, an economist at Evans Economics.
Underscoring that notion, the four-week moving average for claims, a less volatile measure of labor market conditions, rose for the first time in six weeks. It increased 1,000, to 326,500.
Many companies are streamlining operations to cut costs. This week, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the world's largest brewer, said it would cut its white-collar work force by 10 percent by year-end, eliminating 1,200 jobs.
In Maryland, the number of new claims for jobless benefits fell 15 percent, to 3,153, in the week that ended Sept. 11.
The previous week had seen the first increase in a month. Maryland's statistics on unemployment claims lag behind the nation's by a week.