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Jobless claims tick up to 744,000

Jobless claims tick up to 744,000
© Getty Images

Jobless claims ticked up to a seasonally adjusted 744,000 in the week ending April 3, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week, remaining stubbornly high as the economy reopens.

Two weeks ago, claims dipped below 700,000 — their pre-pandemic record — for the first time since COVID-19 shuttered the economy last year, but have since bounced back.

Last week's figures were also revised up to 728,000, an increase of 9,000.

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The latest weekly figures, well above the 694,000 economists expected, are a reminder of the difficult path to recovery the economy still faces.

"Unemployment claims took a step backward in the latest week, as the numbers continue to be whipsawed by fraud in some states and by filing backlogs," said Robert Frick, a corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

"Also, increases in COVID-19 cases could be causing regional and state-wide advances in layoffs," he noted.

But there are also hopeful signs in the data.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency program for the self-employed, freelance workers and gig economy workers, saw a drop of over 85,000 initial claims, or 36 percent, falling to 151,752.

“Today’s Labor Department report delivered mixed messages," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

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"Even if the labor market can repeat the bang up performance it delivered in March, there are still many months ahead until this growth will reach a majority of the long-term unemployed."

The official jobs report for March, released last week, showed an unexpected surge in hiring, with the economy adding 916,000 jobs.

As of late March, there were 18.2 million people on unemployment programs of any kind, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent, though labor force participation has not yet recovered.

Stettner noted on Thursday that the improvements to employment appear concentrated among the short-term unemployed, a typical trend in recoveries.

"While short-term unemployment is steadily decreasing, long-term unemployment remains high," he said.

"There are a total of 14 million on one of three extended benefits programs."

--Updated at 9:18 a.m.