The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance increased last week following a three-week streak of declines. In the week-ending February 12, unemployment claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 248,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was an increase of 23,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 225,000 claims. The most recent filings were much higher than the roughly 218,000 to 219,000 initial claims economists were projecting and surpassed the average of less than 220,000 claims filed per week in the year leading up to the pandemic. The four-week average, which smooths out changes from week to week, decreased by 10,500 last week to 243,250, the second straight week of declines after rising for five straight weeks amid the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, peaked at more than 6.1 million at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and have been generally trending down since then. Late last year, jobless claims fell below pre-pandemic levels amid a tight labor market. Thus far during the pandemic, nearly 94.2 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.