Unemployment Claims Tick Up, Resisting Full Recovery

Japanese male workers in a warehouse.

Makiko Tanigawa

The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance went up very slightly last week, another blip in the job market’s uneven recovery from the pandemic.

Initial claims rose to 373,000 in the week through July 3, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Labor Department. After a steady march downward this spring nearly halved the weekly volume of claims, progress has leveled off in recent weeks. Claims are still nearly twice as high as pre-pandemic levels.

The slower progress is counterintuitive, given recent signs of a labor shortage. While the volume of layoffs has dropped to new record lows for three straight months and there were a record number of job openings in May, things like lack of childcare, anxiety about the pandemic, and enhanced unemployment benefits could be holding back workers, some economists have suggested. The amount of time and effort it takes employers to recruit, hire, and onboard new employees may also be constraining the pace of hiring.

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