The numbers: Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose in early September one week after falling to a pandemic low, but the increase partly stemmed from Hurricane Ida and is likely to prove temporary.
Initial jobless benefit claims rose 20,000 to 332,000 in the week ended Sept. 11, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 318,000.
Last week new jobless claims had tumbled to a pandemic-era low of 312,000.
The latest report on jobless claims is the first since the extra federal benefits for the unemployed expired on Sept. 6. New jobless claims filed through the federal program sank to 28,456 from almost 100,000 in the previous week.
It’s unclear if any of those filers will actually get any money. States can continue to pay extra benefits using federal stimulus approved by Washington earlier this year, but most have chosen not to do so.
Big picture: New claims rose sharply in Louisiana for the second week in a row and reflected heavy damage from Hurricane Ida. Many people were unable to work in the early stages of the city’s recovery.
Stepping back, companies are reluctant to lay off workers owing to a major shortage of labor and an expectation the economy will rebound quickly from any damage from the coronavirus delta variant. That’s why jobless claims have kept falling even though the economy has slowed.
The loss of benefits for almost 9 million unemployed people getting money from the federal program, meanwhile, could pinch the economy in the short run. The good news is that there are a record number of open jobs awaiting those who chose to return to work.
Key details: Aside from Louisiana, new jobless claims also showed notable increases in Arizona and the District of Columbia.
Yet new claims fell in 34 states, including large declines in Illinois, Ohio and Texas.
The number of people already collecting state jobless benefits, meanwhile, fell by 187,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.67 million. These so-called continuing claims are at a pandemic era low.
Altogether, some 12.1 million people were reportedly receiving benefits through eight separate state or federal programs as of Aug. 28. The federal claims data is released with a two-week lag.
Nearly 9.3 million had been collecting money from the federal program before it lapsed.
What they are saying? “Demand for labor remains extremely strong, so there is no fundamental reason why we would see claims move higher,” said money market economist Thomas Simons of Jefferies LLC.
“Unemployment claims ticked up a bit, mainly due to layoffs as businesses temporarily shut down from Hurricane Ida,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.