The pace of worker jobless claims picked up last week and was a bit higher than Wall Street had expected.
Unemployment claims totaled 742,000 for the week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, ahead of an estimate of 710,000 from economists polled by Dow Jones.
That total also represented an acceleration from the 709,000 the previous week and a continuation of struggles in the labor market since the coronavirus pandemic struck in early March.
The week-over-week increase was the first after four straight weeks of decline. Even with the increase for the most recent period, the four-week moving average, which dampens the volatility of the numbers, has declined from 13,750 to 742.00.
As has been the case in recent months, there was good news in the high level of deposits.
Continuing claims, which lag for a week, suffered another substantial drop, falling from 429,000 to 6.37 million, a new low in the era of the pandemic. The insured unemployment rate, which is a simple calculation of benefits relative to the total labor force, also continued to decline, falling to 4.3%.
The way forward for the job market is unclear amid rising coronavirus cases. Economists fear that increased restrictions on activity will push unemployment up again.
The migration of workers from their normal benefits to the government’s pandemic unemployment assistance program also continued. Claims for the PUA program increased from 23,863 to 320,237, while the PUA emergency assistance program, whose data is two weeks behind, increased from 233,458 to 4.38 million .
Total benefit recipients, which are running two weeks late, fell from 841,245 million to 20.32 million, from 1.48 million a year ago.
State-level, Illinois recorded the largest decline of 20,632, according to unadjusted data. Other notable declines came from Florida (-9,865), New Jersey (-8,689) and Washington (-8,516). Massachusetts posted the largest increase with 9,303.
The most recent week’s total is getting a little more market attention because it includes the survey week that the Department of Labor uses for its monthly non-farm payroll report. The payroll rose by 638,000 in October, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.9%.