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Unemployment filings in U.S. rise again to 286,000; highest level since October

By Doug Cunningham
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Unemployment filings in U.S. rise again to 286,000; highest level since October
A board is seen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York City on January 12. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The number of workers filing new unemployment claims in the United States has again increased unexpectedly, the Labor Department said in its weekly report -- to the highest level in months.

The department said there were 286,000 new filings nationwide -- the most since October and once again above the prepandemic cutoff level of 256,000.

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Most analysts expected the report to show about 225,000 new claims.

The rise follows months of dwindling jobless claims that dipped to historic levels in November and December. On two occasions, the number of filings fell below 200,000 and were the lowest figures since 1969.

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Recent increases in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant have prompted some new restrictions and have had an impact on the U.S. economy.

The number of new claims reported Thursday is an increase over the previous week of about 55,000 filings, the department said. The four-week moving average, given the most recent data available, is 231,000 -- which is still well below prepandemic levels.

The department said California, New York and Texas saw the greatest increases in new filings -- while Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan saw the largest decreases in initial claims. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Thursday's report said the unemployment rate -- the share of workers currently collecting unemployment insurance -- for last week was 1.2%.

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There were about 2.1 million continuing claims, which lag initial claims by a week. A year ago, that figure was almost 17 million.

"After having notched the lowest levels in decades, new claims are moving in the wrong direction," analyst Mark Hamrick of Bankrate.com said Thursday, according to Yahoo Finance. "Omicron deserves suspicion for some new job loss.

"Because of the pandemic, some workers have been sidelined and no doubt some businesses have been negatively impacted by this latest wave of the pandemic.

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The department said California, New York and Texas saw the greatest increases in new filings -- while Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan saw the largest decreases in initial claims.

The report said just two states, New Jersey and New Mexico, still were offering extended unemployment benefits at the start of the month.

Earlier this month, the Labor Department said that the U.S. economy added about 199,000 jobs during the month of December -- which was far lower than the 440,000 most economists projected.

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