Nationally, unemployment benefits claims filings increased last week. Pandemic concerns cloud optimism.

It wasn’t a big increase, just over 1%, but claims for UI benefits rose nationally in the latest weekly report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the week ending August 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 353,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 348,000 to 349,000. The 4-week moving average was 366,500, a decrease of 11,500 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 377,750 to 378,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.1 percent for the week ending August 14, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

The Associated Press reports economists anticipate some fluctuation as the pandemic continues to create uncertainty.

“We expect jobless claims to remain on a downward path as the labor market continues to recover, but progress will be more fitful as claims get closer to pre-pandemic levels,” economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics said in a research note.

And,

A resurgence of cases linked to the highly contagious delta variant has also clouded the economic outlook. And claims already remain high by historic standards: Before the pandemic tore through the economy in March 2020, the weekly pace amounted to around 220,000 a week.

More in the story. Bumpy roads ahead.