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The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week, to 351,000 — a sign the delta variant of the coronavirus may be disrupting the job market's recovery, at least temporarily.
Thursday's report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed jobless claims rose by 16,000 from the previous week.
As the job market has strengthened, unemployment aid applications, which generally track layoffs, have tumbled since topping 900,000 early this year, reflecting the economy's reopening after the pandemic recession.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week swings, registered its sixth straight drop — to a pandemic low of 336,000.
Jobless claims still remain somewhat elevated. Before the virus tore through the economy in March 2020, they generally numbered about 220,000 a week.
In a research report, Contingent Macro Advisors concluded the recent jump in applications for unemployment benefits — especially so last week in California and Virginia — likely reflected a technical problem in processing the claims.
Overall, 2.8 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits during the week of Sept. 11, up by 131,000 from the week before.
In Iowa, new claims increased, but continuing claims fell.
New claims rose from 1,430 to 1,793, while continuing claims slid from 10,831 to 10,544.
Manufacturing was the largest source of new claims with 408, followed by self-employed and independent contractors with 246, construction with 217, and retail trade with 155.
Linn County saw new claims jump from 105 to 158, and Johnson County's climb from 44 to 53.
These numbers are preliminary and are yet to be adjusted by the U.S. Labor Department. They also only include people actively seeking work and therefore do not necessarily give a full picture of how many people are out of work.