The number of new applications for unemployment benefits rose 37,000 last week to 412,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
The number of new jobless claims represents the number of people who filed for unemployment in the previous week. The new figure was more than forecasters’ expectations of 359,000 new claims. The number is also higher than the week before, which saw 375,000 filings.
Weekly jobless claims are being watched closely as the U.S. economy recovers because recent monthly jobs reports have been less than stellar and have added to concerns that the country could be in the throes of a labor shortage.
The economy fell slightly short of expectations last month and added 559,000 new jobs, a number that was below the 650,000-consensus level but was still far more positive than the surprisingly bad report from the month before. Only 278,000 jobs were added in April, a figure way below predictions of nearly 1 million additional jobs.
This week’s jobless claims report is also notable because it is the first after some states have begun opting out of the federal government’s $300-per-week expanded unemployment insurance program, which critics assert has been holding back the labor force by incentivizing collection of the increased benefits.
Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri, which have a combined population of about 13 million, were the first states to end the benefits program prematurely last weekend. About half of the states will be phasing out the program in the coming weeks before its actual Sept. 6 sunset date. The expanded benefits plus the average state benefits total more than double the federal minimum wage on average.
While the exact impact that the expanded payments have had on the labor market is unclear, a recent study by employment website Indeed found that job search activity rose, relative to the national trend, in the states opting out of the expanded program. A state’s share of national clicks, on average, was up between 3% and 4% from the day of the announcement to three days later, the study found.