Number of Americans Filing for Unemployment Edges Up After 4 Weeks of Declines

The number of American workers filing for unemployment edged up last week following four consecutive weeks of declines, as the labor market continues along its bumpy road to recovery.

First-time filings for unemployment insurance, a proxy for layoffs, came in at 353,000 for the week ending Aug. 21, a rise of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 349,000, the Labor Department said in a statement (pdf).

“Alas, a fifth straight weekly decline was not to be with seasonally adjusted new jobless claims,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “The pandemic has demonstrated that few things move in a straight line and the latest snapshot of jobless claims is consistent with that.”

Weekly claims surged to a record high of 6.2 million in April 2020, when lockdowns amid the COVID-19 outbreak shook the economy. For the most part, they’ve fallen steadily since then, remaining relatively flat at the mid-to-high 300,000 range since June, a historically elevated level. Before the pandemic, weekly unemployment filings averaged around 220,000.

“To the extent that COVID has been a major influence on the economy going back to early last year, the final chapter on this difficult story has yet to be written,” Hamrick said. “Still, the nation’s unemployment rate has dropped significantly from last year’s peak and may be poised to move lower in the forthcoming August snapshot and beyond.”

The national unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage point over the month in July, dropping to 5.4 percent, according to the Labor Department. That’s 4.8 percentage points lower than in July 2020 and far lower than the pandemic peak of 14.8 percent in April of last year. – READ MORE