Almost three-quarters of a million Americans filed for new jobless claims last week, a surprise increase.
The data out Thursday from the U.S. Department of Labor show that new applications for unemployment benefits remain stubbornly high after the pandemic ravaged the economy.
The latest numbers are a far cry from the peak of 6.1 million new claims in April last year, but they remain more than double the pre-pandemic level.
Part of what might be driving the latest figures: a $300 federal boost to benefits that went into effect last month. Economists say more workers may be opting to keep receiving jobless benefits because of the greater payouts.
The rise in claims comes amid signs of recovery: The economy created 916,000 jobs in March, the most in seven months. The mammoth pandemic rescue package and acceleration in vaccinations have helped boost the labor market.
Federal Reserve officials acknowledge the improvement. The minutes of the last Fed policymakers meeting show central bank officials expect strong job gains to continue into the medium term.