Jobless claims rose to 744,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, bucking a downward trend amid other signs of recent labor-market improvement.
Weekly claims averaged around 220,000 in the year before Covid-19’s arrival.
With nearly one-quarter of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated, consumers are spending more on gyms, restaurants, hotels and other services they had shunned over the last year, setting in motion a post-pandemic spending boom. Economists are closely watching unemployment claims numbers for signs that layoffs are moderating as businesses scramble to keep up with consumers.
“The movement overall is in the right direction,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said. “As we get closer to herd immunity, as restrictions can be lifted—think about dining rooms that can go from 50% to 100% capacity and baseball stadiums that can be 100% instead of 10%–those are things that get us closer to where we were before.”
A steady drop in jobless filings would add to signals that the labor market is improving as vaccination rates juice consumer spending, governments relax restrictions on businesses and households, and federal stimulus funds flow through the economy.