economy /

Jobless Claims on the Rise Unexpectedly

Despite a drop in COVID numbers, and last month's increase in jobs, unemployment claims are on the rise

Filings for unemployment benefits increased unexpectedly across the United States last week, rising for the first time in a month despite increasing demand for employees nationwide.

The numbers, released Thursday by the Labor Department, show that unemployment benefit applications for the week ending Feb. 12 rose to 248,000. This is roughly a 10% increase from the week prior when claims hit 225,000. The number was a miss from the 219,000 forecast by Refinitiv analysts.

Continuing claims by Americans consecutively receiving unemployment benefits dropped to 1.59 million. This number shows a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week.

“Jobless claims rose unexpectedly in the most recent week, but it’s probably noise given other employment data,” said Robert Frick of Navy Federal Credit Union. “One noise factor: layoffs shot up in a handful of states. We should expect claims to follow the trend of dropping along with omicron cases in the coming weeks.”

Thursday’s report indicates that roughly 2 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits for the week ending Jan. 29. This is a slight decrease from the week prior. Just over one year ago, more than 18.9 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits.

Claims have consistently stabilized as the economy continues to recover from the COVID pandemic. Jobs have increased as Americans choose to start traveling, shopping, and eating out more often as the impact of the pandemic eases across the country. 

However, businesses have struggled to keep up with the demand and have reported difficulties hiring new employees. Despite the double-digit growth in unemployment claims, Thursday’s report suggests that companies are retaining the workers they already have.

In early February, the Labor Department reported that companies hired 467,000 new employees in January. This was a surprising increase despite the surge in COVID-19 cases. The department also revised its estimated job increases in November and December by a combined 709,000. 

A separate government report revealed there were 10.9 million job openings in December. However, the report also showed that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs that month, a figure that represents about 2.9% of the American workforce.

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