By BRIAN BLACKSTONE
August 7, 2008 10:32 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to a six-year high, as the recent extension of unemployment benefits continued to draw new claimants into the system.
Still, those technical issues aside the numbers, which included another rise in continuing claims, suggest the outlook for labor markets and consumer spending remains bleak as households face high energy prices and falling home values.
Separately, a forecasting tool for sales of previously owned homes rose in June, but remains well below levels from one year ago.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 7,000 to 455,000 after seasonal adjustments in the week ended Aug. 2, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the highest level since March 2002. Economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey expected a 20,000 decline.