US jobless claims rise for fourth time in five weeks 

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since mid-November, but still low by historical standards.

U.S. jobless claims climbed by 23,000 last week to 230,000, the Department of Labor said this morning. The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week blips, rose nearly 6,300 to almost 211,000.

The weekly applications, a proxy for layoffs, have risen in four of the last five weeks, a period that runs in tandem with the spread of the omicron variant. Yet the jobs market has bounced back strongly from last year’s coronavirus recession. Jobless claims had fallen steadily for about a year and had dipped below the pre-pandemic average of around 220,000 a week.

“The rise in claims likely reflects an increase in layoffs due to the surge in COVID cases,” says economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics. “Claims may remain elevated in the near term, but we expect initial claims will gravitate back to the 200K level once the omicron wave passes. Encouragingly, there are indications that cases from the omicron variant are peaking.” Read the full story