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New jobless claims spike unexpectedly from their pandemic low

Texas man searching for job shares his story
Texas man searching for job shares his story 04:47

The number of workers filing first-time jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, showing the improving U.S. job market is still experiencing jitters as it emerges from the pandemic.

Some 419,000 people applied for unemployment aid in the week ending July 17, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's an increase of 51,000 from the prior week's number, which was also revised upward by 8,000.

Half of the increase came from just three states — Kentucky, Michigan and Texas. Claims also rose in California, Florida, Missouri and Ohio. 

Separately, about 110,000 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for gig workers and freelancers. 

About 12.6 million people were collecting some sort of jobless aid as of the first week of July, the most recent data available.

Unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily since peaking at 900,000 a week in January, as more Americans feel confident enough to shop, dine out and go to live events. Concern that too-generous jobless benefits were keeping some workers on the sidelines and making it harder for reopening businesses to hire has led nearly half of U.S. states to end supplemental unemployment aid early.

At the same time, analysts are becoming concerned about the potential economic consequences of a tick-up in confirmed viral infections as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, especially among the unvaccinated. The seven-day rolling U.S. average for daily new cases accelerated over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 as of Tuesday, from fewer than 13,700 in previous weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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