Initial unemployment insurance claims rose last week amid ongoing conflict over the labor market.
The new claims stood at 861,000, their highest level in a month and above the Dow Jones estimate of 773,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Markets barely moved on the news as Wall Street stocks opened lower.
The total for the week ending February 13 was only a slight increase from 848,000 the week before. That number has been revised from the 793,000 originally reported.
Continuing claims fell again, dropping to just under 4.5 million, a decrease of 64,000. These dates are one week behind the total of initial claims.
The total number of beneficiaries decreased by 1.3 million to 18.34 million, mainly due to a decrease in people who made claims related to Covid-19 pandemics in the last week of January. However, those numbers accelerated in early February.
“We’re still at the mercy of the virus, so it’s still a forked economy,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.
Several states saw sharp spikes in claims last week, led by Illinois with 33,491 and 20,657 in California, according to unadjusted data. Texas saw a decline of 12,428 while Rhode Island fell from 6,269.
Employment data remains the weak link in an economy that otherwise grew significantly faster than expected at the beginning of the year. Retail sales rose in January thanks to the pandemic relief checks approved by Congress in December, and most other data points have defied prospects for a weak first half of 2021.
Congress is trying to negotiate a $ 1.9 trillion recovery plan for the White House. Part of this proposal includes expanded unemployment benefits, which are expected to expire in mid-March.
In a separate Thursday report, housing starts declined 6% in January, more than expected, but building permits rose 10.4%, slightly above Wall Street estimates.