Weekly Unemployment Claims Continue to Creep Up, at 744,000

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The weekly number of unemployment claims continues to creep up for the second consecutive week, after a very short-lived downward trend.

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For the week ending April 3, the weekly number of unemployment claims increased to 744,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to the Labor Department.

The previous week’s level was revised up by 9,000, from 719,000 to 728,000.

Economists expected 694,000 workers to file for initial unemployment benefits last week, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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To put these figures in context, pre-pandemic, first-time unemployment benefit filers had typically numbered only about 225,000 weekly. For example, for the week ending Feb. 29, 2020, the figure stood at 217,000 claims, according to Labor Department data. However, for the week ending April 4, 2020, claims stood at an eye-popping 6,149,000.

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Interestingly, last week the Labor Department reported that the U.S. added 916,000 jobs in March, boosted by the leisure and hospitality sector, representing the strongest month since last summer and beating economists’ expectations. This nascent economic recovery is also reflected in the decrease in the unemployment rate from 6.2% in February to 6% in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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“These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the Labor Department said in a statement.

The Labor Department was cautiously optimistic, however, adding that “the rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020,” the Labor Department said in its statement. “The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4.0 million higher than in February 2020.”

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        About the Author

        Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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