(Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment aid unexpectedly edged higher last week, stoking fears of a stalled economic recovery even as a separate report showed record exports in April.
Initial claims for state jobless benefits increased 1,000 to 427,000, the Labor Department said. However, economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 415,000 from a previously reported count of 422,000.
The rise kept first-time claims perched above the 400,000 mark for the ninth week in a row. Analysts normally associate a level below that with steady job growth.
"It's the same dismal trend continuing. It's not getting worse, but it's not getting better either," said Keith Hembre, chief economist at Nuveen Asset Management in Minneapolis.
Along with the news of the president's financial team almost completely gone comes the rise in the unemployment rate. And where are these team members going ............... back to academia whence they came to continue teaching. It does not take a high school graduate, or someone who taught there to know throwing money at a problem or institution or even a person does not fix the problem. Would the teachers union or other public unions consider the help or would it be seen as 'union busting'.
France: Compulsory work to keep your benefits
INCOME support claimants should be required to accept up to 10 hours of work each week or risk having their payments cut, MPs have proposed.
President Sarkozy's UMP party has confirmed it will push for the changes to the RSA (revenu de solidarité active) to encourage people to return to employment.
UMP deputy general secretary Marc-Philippe Daubresse, who is leading a conference on benefits tomorrow, said the government was in favour of a compulsory work contract for claimants who were physically able to work.
They would be required to accept paid work for between five and 10 hours a week when offered, with jobs including crossing patrols outside schools, cleaning, accompanying elderly people or temp work at mairies and local councils.
Claimants who refuse the work could lose their entitlement to income support. The government also wants to reinforce anti-fraud controls.
The RSA, which replaced the RMI (revenu minimum d’insertion) in 2009, is designed to give people an incentive to find work.
Three million households in France are eligible. The welfare-to-work scheme gives them extra money on top of their pay to make up for lost unemployment benefits.
Mr Daubresse told Le Parisien: "The principle that anyone who works, no matter how few hours, earns more than someone who does not work at all has clearly not applied."
Europe minister Laurent Wauquiez suggested last month that access to RSA be tightened up, including tougher requirements for foreign residents in France who claim.
He said it was "not normal" that the French system allows foreign newcomers "very easy" access to various benefits.