Weekly jobless claims total 351,000, worse than expected

Key Points
  • First-time jobless claims totaled 351,000 last week, an increase from 16,000 a week before and well ahead of the 320,000 Dow Jones estimate.
  • Continuing claims increased by 181,000 to 2.84 million.
  • The total receiving benefits under all programs fell sharply as enhanced federal programs wound down.
Initial jobless claims at 351,000 versus 320,000 estimate
Initial jobless claims at 351,000 versus 320,000 estimate

First-time filings for unemployment benefits jumped last week, hitting the highest level in a month, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Initial claims for the week ended Sept. 18 on a seasonally adjusted basis totaled 351,000, an increase from the previous week's upwardly revised 335,000 and well ahead of the 320,000 Dow Jones estimate. The total was the highest since the week of Aug. 21.

Markets reacted little to the news, with stock market futures pointing to a strong opening while safe-haven government bonds saw yields rise, an indication that investors were selling fixed income as yields move opposite price.

The latest claims figures show that while the jobs market has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic, there's still work to be done before it's healed.

Continuing claims data, which runs a week behind, also increased, rising 181,000 to total more than 2.84 million.

The four-week moving average for initial claims, which irons out weekly volatility, is now at 335,750, which is actually a decrease of 750 from a week ago. Just prior to the pandemic declaration, that total was around 215,000. A year ago, it was at 869,000.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims fell 15,750 to just over 2.8 million. That number was 1.73 million prior to the pandemic and 12.6 million a year ago.

As enhanced unemployment benefits related to the pandemic wind down, the total of those receiving benefits also is declining, dropping by 856,440 to 11.25 million. The expiration is expected to cut benefits completely to about 7 million people, while 3 million others will lose the extra $300 a week on top of their regular compensation, according to Bank of America.

Two states accounted for the biggest share of the jump, according to unadjusted data. California saw a surge of 24,221 filings, while Virginia jumped by 12,879.

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