The number of initial jobless claims in the U.S. rose unexpectedly last week, although the labor market recovery is gaining momentum as economic activity picks up thanks to an increase in vaccinated citizens and massive fiscal stimulus.
Other data released Thursday confirmed this, showing that the number of job cuts in March was the lowest in 2.5 years. Initial claims data are skewed by processing delays and fraud, making it difficult to get a clear picture of the labor market based on weekly data.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that last week’s initial jobless claims rose by 61,000 to a seasonally adjusted 719,000. The previous week’s data was revised to 26,000 fewer than previously reported, bringing the total number filed down to 658,000.
This is the lowest number since mid-March 2020, when quarantine measures were imposed in many states.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 680,000 applications over the past week. The largest increase was in Virginia. There were also notable increases in California, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey and New York.
Meanwhile, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Thursday that the number of planned layoffs at U.S. companies in March fell 11 percent to 30,603, the lowest since July 2018. Scheduled layoffs in the first quarter were down 35 percent from the October to December period. Last quarter, 144,686 people were hit by layoffs, the lowest number since the fourth quarter of 2019.
U.S. stock exchanges opened higher Thursday. The dollar was down against a basket of currencies. Treasury bond prices rose.