Jobless Claims Tick Up, But Still Near Pandemic Lows

    It was a sort of “good news, bad news” week in the unemployment world.

    The bad news: First-time requests for unemployment assistance jumped for the first time in a month last week. According to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department, such claims rose by some 23,000 to 248,000 in the week ending Feb. 12.

    The good news: Claims are still near historically low levels.

    The four-week average for claims still fell by 10,500 to 243,250. It was the second straight week that figure has dropped after a five-week string of as the omicron variant of the coronavirus spread.

    “The trend is still falling, unwinding the hit from the Omicron Covid wave, and claims likely will drop next week,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a report, according to CBS News. “The pre-Omicron low was [188,000] in the first week of December; we expect that to be reached again by late March.”

    In total, fewer than 1.6 million Americans were collecting jobless aid the week that ended Feb. 5, a decrease of about 26,000 from the previous week.

    Massive government spending and the vaccine rollout jumpstarted the economy as employers added a record 6.4 million jobs last year, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. economy expanded 5.7% in 2021, growing last year at the fastest annual pace since a 7.2% surge in 1984, also coming after a recession, according to the AP.

    CBS News reported the job market has about 4 million more job openings than unemployed workers. Hiring remains strong, with employers adding 467,000 jobs last month.

    “Despite the uptick, we expect initial claims to continue to grind back toward [200,000],” Mahir Rasheed, U.S. economist with Oxford Economics, said in a report, according to the network. “Layoffs are expected to be minimal in a tight labor market where employers continue to face difficulty hiring workers.”