Hurricane Ida Bumps Up Jobless Claims

Initial claims rise a bit after two weeks of pandemic-era lows

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance rose as expected last week, caroming off a pandemic-era low due to the effects of Hurricane Ida.

Initial claims for benefits rose to 332,000 for the week through Sept. 11, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week’s revised level and a little more than economists expected, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Labor Department. Weekly volumes are still less than 80,000 away from the last level before the pandemic—256,000—on March 14, 2020. That counts as progress, considering claims hovered in the 750,000-900,000 range for much of the last year.

After hitting fresh pandemic lows two weeks in a row, the claims had been expected to increase as the result of a Labor Day weekend backlog and filings that had been delayed earlier by Hurricane Ida, economists said. But the overall volume of claims is heading south, with decreases in six of the last eight weeks. It’s expected to continue to decline, as businesses hold on to workers as they struggle to hire and fill a record 10.9 million open positions.

“We expect initial claims to resume their downward march toward pre-pandemic levels, but last week’s data reminds us there will be bumps along the way,” wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, in a commentary Thursday.

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