US jobless claims rise last week for first time since March

The number of initial jobless claims in the United States rose to 1.4 million last week amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, reversing a weekly decline that has continued for 14 weeks, the Labor Department reported.

In the week ending July 18, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased by 109,000 from a revised 1,307,000 in the prior week, the department said on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.

With the latest numbers, a staggering 52.7 million initial jobless claims have been filed over the past 18 weeks, indicating the mounting economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new report also showed that the four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 16,500 to 1.36 million.

As COVID-19 shutdowns rippled through the workforce, initial jobless claims spiked by 3 million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28. After that, figures have been declining, though they are still at historically high levels.

“That marks the first increase since the end of March as re-imposed restrictions on businesses activity have taken a toll on employment,” Sarah House, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in an analysis.

Several US states have recently seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases, and over 20 states have paused or partially reversed reopening efforts, raising uncertainty over the prospect of economic recovery.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 11.1 per cent for the week ending July 11, a decrease of 0.7 percentage point from the prior week’s revised rate, the report showed.

Claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program, also totaled 974,999 in the week ending July 18, an increase of 19,727 from the previous week, according to the report.

The program provides benefits to independent contractors or the self-employed, who are not eligible for regular state programs.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending July 4 was 31.8 million, a decrease of 200,615 from the previous week, the report showed.