Unemployment Claims See First Rise Since Early April

The streak of consecutive weeks of falling claims for first-time unemployment benefits is over.

For the first time since early April, the number of U.S. workers filing initial claims for unemployment assistance rose, climbing to 200,000, up some 19,000 from the 181,000 claims the previous week, according to statistics released by the Labor Department Thursday.

While filings remain near historic lows, the four-week average for claims rose to 188,000 from the previous week’s revised 180,000. Continuing claims dropped to 1.4 million for the week ended April 23.

April’s job numbers are expected to be released Friday.

The Labor Department statistics showed the number of Americans collecting state unemployment checks was the smallest in more than 52 years toward the end of April. Yahoo News was reporting that economists were brushing off last week’s increase in initial claims.

“The latest level of initial claims filings is still pretty low by broad historical standards, and continuing claims filings kept trending lower through today’s report, so overall we believe that the labor market remains strong,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York, told Yahoo.

The Wall Street Journal reported that job gains have been above 400,000 each month since last May, the longest such streak since 1939, and the 3.6% unemployment rate in March was close to matching the low reached ahead of the pandemic.

Job openings and the number of times workers quit jobs were at record levels in March, the Labor Department said this week. That equaled to nearly two job openings for every unemployed person that month.

“It could be that faster wage growth is going to become more entrenched and firms are making more of a push to hold the labor that they already have and it’s obviously costing them more to do so,” Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp., told The Journal. Moody said employers also face higher costs for added benefits to recruit court workers.