The number of Americans seeking unemployment assistance rose last week for a second straight week to 351,000, a sign that the delta variant of the coronavirus could disrupt the labor market recovery, at least temporarily.
Thursday’s Labor Department report showed jobless claims rose 16,000 from the previous week. As the labor market has strengthened, claims for unemployment assistance, which usually follow layoffs, have fallen since topping 900,000 earlier this year, reflecting the reopening of the economy after the pandemic recession.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, recorded its sixth consecutive decline – to a pandemic low of 336,000.
Unemployment claims still remain somewhat high: Before the virus ravaged the economy in March 2020, they were typically around 220,000 per week.
The economy has recovered about 17 million jobs as the vaccine rollout has encouraged businesses to open and extend hours of operation and Americans to return to shop, travel and dine out.
Mortgage rates increase slightly
Average long-term mortgage rates edged up this week, continuing a trend of little movement for months. They remained below 3%.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year mortgage rose slightly to 2.88% from 2.86% last week. This is very close to where the benchmark rate was at this time last year, 2.90%. It peaked this year at 3.18% in April.
The rate on a 15-year loan, a popular option for homeowners refinancing their mortgages, rose to 2.15%, from 2.12% last week.