US weekly jobless claims unexpectedly jump to 351,000 as the labor market’s recovery stumbles

Unemployment line
People line up outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville, U.S., April 15, 2021. Amira Karaoud/Reuters
  • Weekly filings for unemployment benefits rose to 351,000 last week as the hiring recovery trudged forward.
  • Economists expected claims to fall to 320,000. The reading places claims just above pandemic-era lows.
  • Continuing claims increased to 2.85 million for the week that ended September 11.
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The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance unexpectedly increased last week as the jobs recovery slowed.

Jobless claims totaled a seasonally-adjusted 351,000 last week, the Labor Department announced Thursday morning. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg held a median estimate for 320,000 claims. The print marks a second straight increase and places claims at their highest since late August.

The prior week’s total was revised to 335,000 from 332,000.

Continuing claims, which count Americans receiving unemployment benefits, jumped to 2.85 million for the week that ended September 11. Economists expected continuing claims to reach 2.6 million. The previous week’s count was revised higher to 2.71 million.


The latest claims data sheds more light on how UI will be tapped now that the federal boost to benefits has expired. The government had been adding $US300 ($AU414) to benefits each week since Democrats passed their stimulus plan in March. Yet the supplement lapsed on September 6, as did a handful of programs that expanded eligibility for UI aid to millions of Americans who were traditionally unable to receive benefits or who exhausted their normal benefits.

While weekly claims are volatile, the latest print suggests the labor market’s recovery is slowing. Claims now sit well above the pandemic low. The last two readings are also the largest increases since July, signaling millions of Americans still rely on the support program.

The latest claims data comes as Congress hurtles toward a key deadline that could slash social benefits and other government activity across the board. Lawmakers continue to haggle over raising the debt ceiling, a threshold that limits the government’s borrowing. The limit is expected to be reached in mid-October, and failing to raise or suspend the ceiling by then risks economic catastrophe.

The government would likely default on its multitrillion-dollar debt pile, and state and local economies would suffer massively, the White House warned Friday. Funding for programs including Medicaid, free school lunches, and public health efforts would freeze. And while the federal government doesn’t run states’ UI programs, a default could force states to shrink their aid as they struggle to balance their budgets.