New claims for US unemployment benefits increased for the third straight week, but the rate of the uptick appears to be slowing, according to government data released Thursday.
Initial applications for jobless benefits made in the week ended September 25 rose to 362,000, seasonally adjusted, up 11,000 from the previous week's unrevised level, the Labor Department reported. The figures once again defied expectations for a decline.
Another 16,752 new claims, not seasonally adjusted, were made under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for freelancers not normally eligible for aid. Those claims likely represented a backlog since the program expired earlier in the month.
Claims are a closely-watched metric of labor market health, and shot into the millions when the pandemic broke out in the United States in March 2020. They have been on a sustained decline in recent months, though have yet to return to their level before the pandemic.
However, the past three weeks has seen initial claims edge up, perhaps as the fast-spreading Delta variant of Covid-19 complicates business plans to reopen, but the most recent week's increase was slower than the weeks prior.
The report also showed the impact of the end of the pandemic unemployment programs like PUA, which expired on September 6 nationwide.
The total number of people receiving benefits under all programs fell to just over five million in the week ended September 11, a drop of more than 6.2 million since the programs ended.