The number of initial jobless claims in the United States increased slightly to 870,000 last week, indicating a bumpy road to the recovery of the pandemic-ravaged labor market, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
In the week ending Sept. 19, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 4,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 866,000, marking the fifth time in the past 27 weeks that the number has come in below 1 million.
The number of people continuing to collect regular state unemployment benefits decreased by 167,000 to 12.58 million in the week ending Sept. 12, the report showed.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs — state and federal combined — for the week ending Sept. 5 also declined 3.7 million to 26 million.
U.S. employers added 1.4 million jobs in August, while the unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent, according to earlier data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The country still has 11 million unemployed, out of the 22 million who were laid off in March and April amid COVID-19 shutdowns.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently said the level of unemployment is probably 3 percent higher than the official data, considering people who are misidentified as employed and the declined labor force participation.
The median projection for the unemployment rate is 7.6 percent at the end of this year, and 4 percent by the end of 2023, according to the Fed’s latest economic projections. This is still above the historic low of 3.5 percent the country experienced before the COVID-19 pandemic.