U.S. and Washington unemployment claims increased last week.

The delta variant gets the blame for last week’s increase in claims for unemployment insurance benefits. Nationally and here in Washington initial claims filings were up.

The state Employment Security Department reports,

During the week of September 19 to September 25, there were 4,914 initial regular unemployment claims, up 1.3 percent from the prior week. Total claims filed by Washingtonians for all unemployment benefit categories numbered 97,068 down 14.6 percent from the prior week.

  • Initial regular claims applications are 72 percent below weekly new claims applications for the same period last year during the pandemic.
  • The 4-week moving average for regular initial claims was 4,957, a decrease of 40 from the previous week’s 4-week moving average. During the same time in 2019, it was 5,234.
  • Increases in layoffs in retail trade and accommodation and food services contributed to an increase of 64 regular initial claims over the previous week.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports,

In the week ending September 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 362,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 351,000. The 4-week moving average was 340,000, an increase of 4,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 335,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.0 percent for the week ending September 18, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending September 18 was 2,802,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 25,000 from 2,845,000 to 2,820,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,797,250, a decrease of 750 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 21, 2020 when it was 2,071,750. The previous week’s average was revised down by 6,000 from 2,804,000 to 2,798,000.

The Associated Press writes,

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the third straight week, a sign that the highly contagious delta variant may be slowing a recovery in the job market.

Claims rose unexpectedly by 11,000 last week to 362,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, though economists had been expecting claims to go in the opposite direction. The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, rose for the first time in seven weeks to 340,000.

Since topping 900,000 in early January, applications had fallen fairly steadily as the economy bounced back from last year’s shutdowns. But they’ve been rising along with coronavirus infections.

This suggests that the upturn may be a blip.

In a research note, Contingent Macro Advisors said that technical factors — seasonal adjustments and processing backlogs in California, where claims soared by nearly 18,000 — were responsible for last week’s increase in filings. “Overall, the jump in claims in the last three weeks bears close watching but is not yet alarming,” Contingent said.

Let’s hop so.