Jobless Claims Jump Most Since Late March

Young Woman Filling Out Job Application
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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance moved back above 400,000 last week, marking the largest single-week increase in claims since late March.

Initial claims rose to 419,000 in the week through July 17, an increase of 51,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Labor Department. Last week’s jump—the largest in a single week since an increase of 71,000 in late March—returns claims to a level not seen since mid-June. Progress toward the pre-pandemic level of 210,000 has stalled this summer, with claims seesawing above and below the 400,000 mark for the last two months.

This uneven recovery has stopped momentum built in the spring, when the weekly volume of claims dropped by half after being stuck at about four times pre-pandemic levels for a year. The level of claims is still nearly twice as high as it was immediately before the pandemic. 

The state of the labor market is “unprecedented,” Moody’s Analytics senior economist Dante DeAntonio wrote, as a lack of workers—not layoffs—holds back job growth. Health concerns, lack of childcare, and expanded unemployment insurance benefits all have been blamed for keeping people at home.