filed first-time claims for state jobless benefits last week, an increase of 18,000, the Labor Department said. It was the second consecutive weekly increase after new claims hit a pandemic low.
At the same time, 152,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 85,000.
Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.
Claims rose above one million early in the year but have come down since then, helped by the spread of vaccinations, the easing of restrictions on businesses in many states and the arrival of stimulus funds.
Most individuals received payments of $1,400 in recent weeks as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and the funds should bolster consumer spending in the coming months.
On Friday, the government reported that employers added 916,000 jobs in March, twice February’s gain and the most since August. The unemployment rate dipped to 6 percent, the lowest since the pandemic began, with nearly 350,000 people rejoining the labor force.
Still, there is plenty of ground to make up.
Even after March’s job gains, the economy is 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020. Entire sectors, like travel and leisure, as well as restaurants and bars, are only beginning to recover from the millions of job losses that followed the pandemic’s arrival.