U.S. Jobless Claims Hit 3-Mo. High

The number of those Americans filing for unemployment insurance took an unexpected turn higher last week in a potential sign that the wintertime omicron surge was hitting the employment picture.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial filings for the week ended Jan. 15 totaled 286,000, well above the Dow Jones estimate of 225,000 and a substantial gain from the previous week’s 231,000.

The total was the highest since the week of Oct. 16 last year, and marks a reversal after claims just a few weeks ago had hit their lowest level in more than 50 years.

Continuing claims, which run a week behind the headline data, also shot up, rising 84,000 to 1.64 million. One bright spot in the data showed that the four-week moving average for continuing claims, which irons out weekly volatility, declined by 55,250 to 1.664 million, the lowest since the week ended April 27, 2019.