Weekly jobless claims higher than expected

First-time claims for unemployment insurance rose more than expected last week despite other signs of healing in the jobs market, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

First-time claims for the week ended April 3 totaled 744,000, well above the expectation for 694,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The total represented an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised 728,000.

The news comes a week after a sign of more aggressive healing in the labor market, as nonfarm payrolls in March increased by 916,000 while the unemployment rate fell to 6%.

That was the biggest job gain since August 2020, though unemployment remains well above the pre-pandemic low of 3.5%.

Continuing claims provided some good news on the labor front, with the total dropping 16,000 to 3.73 million. That’s the lowest level for continuing claims since March 21, 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic hit and companies instituted wholesale layoffs in conjunction with the economic shutdown. Continuing claims run a week behind the headline weekly number.

A year ago, that total was just 3.44 million but surged shortly thereafter due to massive layoffs in late March and early April.

California and New York accounted for most of the rise in jobs, with respective increases of 38,963 and 15,714, according to unadjusted data. Those increases were offset somewhat by a decline of 13,944 in Alabama and 10,502 in Ohio.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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