The number of Americans filing for the first time for unemployment fell to 326,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The number was lower than expected of 350,000 and compares to 364,000 revised the previous week.
The four-week moving average was 344,000, an increase of 3,500 from the revised 340,500 the previous week.
Unemployment claims have rebounded in recent weeks as the delta variant of the coronavirus forced companies to impose restrictions such as social distancing, masking and vaccine requirements.
The reading is the second of three this week to assess the health of the labor market. On Wednesday, private payroll company ADP said surveyed employers had created 568,000 new jobs, above expectations. Friday will bring the government’s official measurement of monthly employment growth from the Labor Department. Forecasts predict the creation of around 500,000 jobs after the disappointing 235,000 jobs in August.
“Personally, I expect the number of jobs to be about as expected, between 500,000 and 600,000,” Brad McMillan, investment manager for Commonwealth Financial Network wrote on Wednesday. “As long as the country remains open, the economic damage has been mitigated and the medical damage has probably already been done. I don’t expect this report to be real news.”
Meanwhile, companies continue to report difficulties filling the more than 11 million open jobs. And a staffing demand index from the American Staffing Association, which represents temporary recruiting companies, reached its highest level since December 2018. Staffing jobs were up 26.7% from the same week. last year, with 55% of recruiting companies reporting an increase in temporary / contract work.
“There is no sign that the labor supply is slackening,” says Richrd Wahlquist, president and CEO of the association. He added that the subject was a priority at the recent congress of the organization. “Problem # 1 is the lack of talent available across the spectrum.”
Various factors have resulted in an imbalance between supply and demand, including a robust economy, fears over COVID-19, lack of child care services for job seekers and demographic changes.
Most observers don’t expect the situation to improve until next year or later, as more people are getting the COVID-19 vaccine and the delta variant is fading as that threatens to health.
“The key question for the labor market is to what extent the withdrawal of labor from the labor market persists,” AXA IM macroeconomic research director David Page wrote on Wednesday. “Turnout has been stubbornly low at around 61.8%. We doubt this reflects unemployment benefits and therefore only see marginal gains from the expiration of additional unemployment assistance beyond Labor Day. . However, an improvement in the COVID situation and the reopening of schools should encourage more people to re-enter the workforce in the coming quarters. “