Jobless Claims Jump In Worst Streak Since Pandemic Onset

362,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, more than expected.

Economists were looking for 330,000 on the headline initial claims print. The range was 300,000 to 350,000.

The four-week moving average is now rising. It sits at 340,000 (figure below).

This is unwelcome news, although nothing that should set off any alarm bells, per se. Bloomberg described the jump, which was led by California, as “reflecting choppiness in weekly data.”

Although claims are still near pandemic-era lows, do note that last week’s rise marked a third consecutive increase (figure below). Claims are now the highest since the week of August 7.

Continuing claims were 2.8 million in the week ended September 18.

If you’re wondering when initial claims last rose three weeks in a row, the answer (unfortunately) is April of 2020, when the economy was busy collapsing into the pestilent abyss.

Admittedly, the figure (below) is misleading in that the data is hopelessly noisy and the total over the past three weeks is relatively small in the pandemic context. Nevertheless, in a world where nobody cares much about veracity, it’ll pass for meaningful.

Emergency jobless benefits are rolling off in September for millions of Americans and Beltway bickering means additional fiscal stimulus is likely to remain in limbo for at least another month, if not longer.

Child tax credit payments and state-level efforts to assist those still struggling could offset some of the fiscal drag, and the trajectory of the nation’s fourth COVID wave is inflecting for the better, even as vaccination rates slow.

But — and this is the boilerplate refrain — uncertainty is rampant. No one (least of all politicians) knows what the economy will look like a year from now. What we do know with something approaching certainty, though, is that the poor will, at best, still be poor. And the rich will surely be much richer.

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