WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in five weeks, even though the economy and job market have been recovering briskly from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims edged up to 353,000 from 349,000 a week earlier.
The weekly count has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped the economy — encouraging businesses to reopen or expand hours and luring consumers out of their homes to restaurants, bars and shops.
However, a rise in cases from the more contagious delta variant has clouded the current economic outlook. In addition, unemployment claims still remain high by historical standards — pre-pandemic claims for unemployment totaled about 220,000 a week.
Earlier this month, the government reported that the U.S. created 943,000 jobs in July, exceeding economists' forecasts. While job growth is strong in 2020, there's still a shortfall of about 7 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.