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Weekly jobless claims rise back above 700K

Weekly jobless claims rise back above 700K
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Weekly jobless claims rose above 700,000 last week after briefly dipping below the pre-pandemic record for the first time since March 2020, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

In the week ending March 27, the seasonally adjusted number of new applications for unemployment insurance rose to 719,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 658,000.

Last week’s increase brings weekly jobless claims back above the pre-coronavirus pandemic record of roughly 690,000, set in October 1982. Weekly claims had been consistently above that level since the end of March 2020, when the onset of the pandemic drove millions of workers out of the U.S. labor market.

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Another 237,025 Americans applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program created to extend jobless benefits to gig workers, contractors and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment insurance.

On the whole, more than 18 million Americans were on some form of jobless aid as of March 13, according to the Labor Department.

The new claims data come one day before the Labor Department releases the March jobs report, which economists expect to show another strong month of job gains after February’s surprising haul.

Recent economic data has shown consumer confidence rising and businesses preparing for a post-pandemic future. Even so, the steady rise of coronavirus cases through much of the U.S. in March may have thrown another wrench into the economy.

"Higher jobless claims in the most recent week don't detract from the strong downward trend, which will continue given the reopening of local and state economies, and the acceleration of vaccinations,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

“March jobs numbers released tomorrow will reflect this trend, and we can expect jobless claims will fall quickly in April and through the spring generally."