Initial filings for unemployment benefits, seen as a proxy for layoffs, rose to 332,000 last week, up 20,000 from the prior week’s revised level of 312,000, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected to see weekly new claims rise to 320,000.
Weekly new claims have fallen substantially from the 2020 peak of about 6.1 million new claims in a single week, but remain above pre-pandemic levels.
After a summer that saw new jobless claims settle at nearly double pre-pandemic levels, new jobless claims appear to be steadily falling despite the setback presented by the latest data.
The country was averaging just over 200,000 new claims per week in 2019.
Nearly 2.7 million Americans remained on traditional state unemployment benefits, the feds added.
Continuing claims fell by 187,000 from the prior week’s revised level, according to the new data. That figure stood at about 13 million at the same time last year, in the thick of the pandemic.
Those claims have fallen significantly since peaks seen in 2020, but the figure remains almost twice as high as pre-pandemic levels.
The economic recovery has made strides in recent months, but inflation and a nationwide labor shortage have held back further progress, economists say.
While this week’s consumer price index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that some of the goods responsible for the huge spikes in prices this summer are beginning to ease, the labor market is still struggling.
The country added only 235,000 jobs last month, falling way short of expectations and stoking concerns that the economic recovery is stalling out.
“There’s no question the Delta variant is why today’s job report isn’t stronger. I know people were looking and I was hoping for a higher number,” President Joe Biden said last week of the report.