116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits moved up last week to 332,000 from a pandemic low, a sign that the spread of the delta variant may have slightly increased layoffs.
Applications for jobless aid rose from 312,000 the week before, the U.S. Department of Department said Thursday. That was the lowest level since March 2020.
Jobless claims, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily for two months as many employers, struggling to fill jobs, have held onto their workers.
Last week's increase was small and may be temporary.
The four-week average of jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations in the weekly data, dropped for the fifth straight week to just below 336,000.
That figure is also the lowest since the pandemic began.
In Iowa, new and continuing claims fell. New claims dropped from 1,833 to 1,514, and continuing claims slid from 11,746 to 10,613.
Manufacturing had the largest share of new claims in Iowa with 316, followed by self-employed and independent contractors with 215, construction with 166, and retail trade with 130.
Linn and Johnson counties both followed the statewide trend with decreases in new and continuing claims.
Ida likely will nick the national economy's growth in the current third quarter, though repairs and rebuilding efforts are expected to make up for some of that in the coming months.
Ida shut down oil refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi about two weeks ago and left more than 1 million homes and businesses without electricity. But Ida's impact was limited: Applications for jobless aid fell slightly in Mississippi.
The job market and the broader economy have been slowed in recent weeks by the delta variant, which has discouraged many Americans from traveling, staying in hotels and eating out.
Earlier this month, the government reported employers added only 235,000 jobs in August after having added roughly a million people in both June and July.
Hiring in August plummeted in industries that require face-to-face contact with the public, notably restaurants, hotels and retailers.
Still, some jobs were added in other areas, and the unemployment rate actually dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent.