U.S. Jobless Claims Rise, But Remain Historically Low

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance increased recently as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has rapidly spread throughout the U.S. However, initial filings have remained at historically low levels, reflecting tight labor market conditions. week-ending January 1, unemployment claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 207,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was an increase of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 200,000 but remained very close to the 52-year low of 188,000 initial claims that were filed in early December. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, peaked at more than 6.1 million at the onset of the pandemic and have been trending down since then. The most recent filings were higher than the roughly 195,000 to 197,000 initial claims economists were projecting and were in line with the average of around 218,000 claims filed per week in 2019, prior to the pandemic. The four-week average, which smooths out changes from week to week, increased by nearly 5,000 last week to more than 204,000, but remain at one of the lowest levels since 1969. Thus far during the pandemic, nearly 92.8 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.