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Weekly jobless claims total 351,000, worse than expected

First-time filings for unemployment benefits jumped last week, hitting the highest level in a month, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Initial claims for the week ended Sept. 18 totaled 351,000, an increase from the previous week’s upwardly revised 335,000 and well ahead of the 320,000 Dow Jones estimate. The total was the highest since the week of Aug. 21.

Markets reacted little to the news, with stock market futures pointing to a strong opening and government bond yields slightly higher on the session.

The latest claims figures indicate that while the jobs market has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic, there is still work to be done before it is healed.

Continuing claims, the data for which runs a week behind, also increased, rising 181,000 to total more than 2.84 million.

The four-week moving average for initial claims, which irons out weekly volatility, is now at 335,750, which is actually a decrease of 750 from a week ago. Just prior to the pandemic declaration, that total was around 215,000. A year ago at this time, it was at 869,000.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims fell 15,750 to just over 2.8 million. That number was 1.73 million prior to the pandemic and 12.6 million a year ago.

As enhanced unemployment benefits related to the pandemic wind down, the total of those receiving benefits also is declining, dropping by 856,440 to 11.25 million.

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