WRAPUP 3-Easter volatility lifts U.S. weekly jobless claims

* Initial jobless claims rise, Easter volatility blamed

* Continuing claims lowest since December 2008

* Easter lifts March retail sales
(Adds details, Fed’s Tarullo, updates markets)

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, April 8 (BestGrowthStock) – The number of U.S. workers
filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly shot higher last
week but did not alter the view labor markets are recovering as
the jump reflected Easter holiday volatility.

That improving jobs picture was illustrated by a record
jump in monthly same-store sales in March, which analysts said
on Thursday was further evidence the economic recovery was
starting to broaden out.

“It does reflect some of the other signs we are seeing that
the economy is a beginning to pick up a little bit of steam,”
said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at Brusuelas Analytics
in Stamford, Connecticut. “The overall recovery may be self
sustained, but there are still risks out there.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 18,000
to a seasonally adjusted 460,000, the Labor Department said on
Thursday, well above market expectations for 435,000.

A Labor Department official said the spike in claims
reflected difficulties in seasonally adjusting the data around
a moving holiday like Easter. A March 31 holiday in California
and the end of the quarter also contributed to the rise.

Analysts expect unusual shifts in the claims data to
continue for the next two weeks or so.

“Looking past this volatility, claims are trending lower
and that’s indicative of a notable decline in firings. The
question that remains is how much strength is there in hiring,
this is where there is still uncertainty,” said Michelle Meyer,
an economist at Barclays Capital in New York.

UPBEAT RETAIL SALES

Separately, sales at stores open at least a year rose 9.1
percent in March, the largest monthly jump since Thomson
Reuters began tracking results in 2000 and ahead of Wall Street
estimates of a 6.3 percent increase. More than 90 percent of 28
retailers tracked beat expectations. See [ID:nN08170785]

The upbeat retail sales report offset lingering worries
over Greece’s ability to tackle its debt crisis, helping U.S.
stocks to reverse earlier losses.

The dollar fell against the euro after European Central
Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said Greece was not in
danger of defaulting on its debt. U.S. government bond prices
gave up earlier gains.

Jobs are the weakest link in the economic revival that
started in the second half of 2009 following the worst
recession since the 1930s. But there are heartening signs labor
markets are in the early stages of recovery.

A government report last Friday showed employers, led by
the private sector, added 162,000 jobs in March — the largest
monthly gain in three years.

The Federal Reserve still views the economic recovery as
modest and on Thursday, Governor Daniel Tarullo reiterated the
central bank’s commitment to ultra low interest rates.

“The relatively modest pace of recovery, the continued high
rate of unemployment … and well-anchored inflation
expectations together suggest that the need for highly
accommodative monetary policies will not diminish soon,”
Tarullo said. See [ID:nN08214779]

Although the four-week average of new jobless claims rose
last week, it remained close to 450,000 for a third week.

In another hopeful sign for the labor market, the number of
people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid
fell to its lowest level since December 2008, Labor Department
data showed.

That took the insured unemployment rate, which measures the
percentage of the insured labor force that is jobless, down to
3.5 percent, the lowest since January 2009, from 3.6 percent in
the prior week.

While companies have resumed hiring, the pace remains too
slow to make a huge impact on the 8.2 million people who have
lost their jobs since the recession struck in December 2007.

The Labor Department report showed more than 10 million
Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits.

“This suggests that while private sector hiring may have
turned a corner, it has not done so with enough force to
materially eat into the vast numbers of people still
unemployed,” said Anna Piretti, an economist at BNP Paribas in
New York.

Government data last week showed a record 44.1 percent of
the 15 million unemployed people in March had been out of work
for 27 weeks or more.
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Jobless claims graphic: http://link.reuters.com/hyz86j
Same-store sales graphic: http://link.reuters.com/sud96j
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Investing Advice

(Additional reporting by Emily Kaiser in Washington and Phil
Wahba in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

WRAPUP 3-Easter volatility lifts U.S. weekly jobless claims