First-Time Unemployment Claims Up For First Time in Weeks, Still Lower Than This Time Last Year

For the first time in more than a month, first-time claims for unemployment insurance went up last week, climbing by some 4,000 claims, according to statistics from the Labor Department.

Labor Department data showed states reported some 353,000 workers had filed for new unemployment benefits during the week ending Aug. 21. That’s a level far below where it was (more than 1 million) this time last year, but still above the previous COVID-less year (2019).

Continuing claims for state benefits fell slightly to 2.9 million in the week ended Aug. 14.

The delta variant that’s fueled a recent surge in new infections across the country poses a risk, Bloomberg reported, though there’s been little evidence that health concerns are leading to dismissals.

Meanwhile, another report released Thursday showed U.S. economic growth in the second quarter was revised slightly higher, Bloomberg reported, reflecting stronger business investment and exports than previously estimated. Initial claims in Michigan, Texas and Virginia saw the biggest declines last week. Maryland posted the largest increase, followed by California and Illinois.

More than 20 governors have prematurely ended federal unemployment programs — including an extra $300 weekly payment — put into place during the pandemic, hoping that removing the enhanced benefits would incentivize workers to look for jobs.

Federal benefits expire Sept. 6. At that time, about 7.5 million people will lose unemployment aid, including 4.3 million gig workers and the self-employed and 3.2 million people receiving additional aid after exceeding state benefits, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Those still able to collect state unemployment benefits will also lose the $300 weekly boost to payments.