US jobless queue spikes as January retail sales slide

Inital jobless claims 339,000

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, government data showed Thursday.

A separate report showed retail sales slid 0.4 percent n January from December, the Commerce Department said. Excluding autos, retail sales were flat.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 339,000 from 331,000 the week before, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits slipping to 330,000 in the week ended Feb. 8.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose to 336,750 from 333,250.

Meanwhile, retail sales fell unexpectedly in January, and another gauge of consumer spending also slipped. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would be unchanged in January after rising by a previously reported 0.2 percent in December.

Stripping out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, so-called core sales fell 0.3 percent after rising by a downwardly revised 0.3 percent in December. Core sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.

Economists had expected this category to advance 0.2 percent in January.

--By Reuters