The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance rose to its highest level in a month, another bump in the labor market’s long road to recovery.
In the week through March 13, there were 770,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits, 45,000 more than the previous week and the most for any week since Feb. 13, according to seasonally adjusted data released by the U.S. Department of Labor Thursday. Economists expected a median of roughly 712,000, according to Moody’s Analytics.
Weekly initial claims have fallen from their highs last spring, but have stubbornly remained above 700,000—more than three-times pre-pandemic levels—for 52 straight weeks, showing there’s work ahead even as the outlook for the economy grows more optimistic. The country still has almost 9.5 million fewer jobs now than it did before the pandemic began a year ago, but Oxford Economics projects 7 million of those will be recovered this year.
“We expect a significant improvement in the labor market over the course of 2021,” Oxford economists wrote in a commentary Thursday.
In February, the economy added the most jobs in four months as decreasing virus cases and a stepped-up vaccination effort led to growth in some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. To encourage growth, particularly in the labor market, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would continue with its easy-money policy.