Unemployment claims in the United States surge after hitting pandemic low | Economic news
By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER, economic editor of the AP
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to 332,000 last week from a pandemic low, a sign that worsening COVID infections may have increased layoffs slightly.
Unemployment assistance claims rose from 312,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Unemployment claims, which usually keep pace with layoffs, have been falling steadily for the past two months as many employers, struggling to fill positions, have retained their employees. Two weeks ago, jobless claims hit their lowest level since March 2020.
Unemployment claims rose by 4,000 in Louisiana, proof that Hurricane Ida caused widespread job losses in that state. Ida is likely to reduce economic growth in the current July-September quarter, although repair and reconstruction efforts are expected to regain those losses in the coming months.
Still, Ida shut down oil refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi about two weeks ago and left more than a million homes and businesses without power. But Ida’s impact was limited: jobless claims declined slightly in Mississippi.
The job market and the economy in general have been slowed in recent weeks by the delta variant, which has discouraged many Americans from traveling, staying in hotels and eating out. Earlier this month, the government reported that employers had created just 235,000 jobs in August after adding about a million people in June and July.
Hires in August fell in industries that require direct contact with the public, including restaurants, hotels and retailers. Still, some jobs were added in other areas, and the unemployment rate actually fell to 5.2% from 5.4%.
The steady decline in weekly jobless claims coincides with a reduction in assistance to unemployed Americans. Last week, more than 8 million people lost all of their unemployment benefits with the expiration of two federal programs that covered concert workers and people out of work for more than six months. These emergency programs were created in March 2020, when the pandemic first ravaged the economy.
An additional 2.7 million people who receive regular state unemployment assistance lost $ 300 a week federal unemployment supplement last week.
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