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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since mid-November — but it’s still low by historic standards.
U.S. jobless claims climbed by 23,000 last week, to 230,000, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
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 past 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 mostly steadily for about a year and they 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,'' said 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.''
Altogether, 1.6 million people were collecting jobless aid the week that ended Jan. 1.
In Iowa, continuing and first-time claims continued to rise for the week ended Saturday, Jan. 8.
Continuing applications were reported by Iowa Workforce Development at 24,907 — up from 19,181 for the previous week. Initial claims rose to 5,289, from 4,773 for the week before.
Linn County listed 476 initial claims, up from 237 the previous week.
Johnson County saw 160 new applications for benefits, a climb from 122 for the week that ended Jan. 1.
Employers nationwide posted 10.6 million job openings in November, the fifth-highest monthly total in records going back to 2000.
A record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November — an indication they are confident enough to look something better.