Nationally, weekly unemployment claims up 16,000, to 351,000. Increase attributed to delta variant.

National claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the week ending September 18, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 351,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 332,000 to 335,000. The 4-week moving average was 335,750, a decrease of 750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 750 from 335,750 to 336,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.1 percent for the week ending September 11, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s revised rate.

The increase was higher than expected in the consensus forecast.

The Associated Press reports that concerns with the delta variant explain part of the upturn.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 351,000, a sign that the delta variant of the coronavirus may be disrupting the job market’s recovery, at least temporarily.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims rose by 16,000 from the previous week. As the job market has strengthened, unemployment aid applications, which generally track layoffs, have tumbled since topping 900,000 early this year, reflecting the economy’s reopening after the pandemic recession. The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week swings, registered its sixth straight drop — to a pandemic low of 336,000.

Overall, things are improving. Haltingly.