Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, led by a surge in claims in California, a sign of choppy weekly data as the labor market continues its broad recovery.
Initial unemployment claims in regular state programs rose to 351,000 in the week ended Sept. 18, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a decrease to 320,000 new applications.
Continuing claims for state benefits increased to 2.8 million in the week ended Sept. 11.
The rise in claims reflects the volatility in weekly data as the figure has broadly declined throughout the economic recovery.
Looking ahead, economic growth is expected to slow in the third quarter amid a pullback in stimulus spending. The end of federal pandemic benefits has not yet led to an increase in job applications, according to employers across industries.
California saw claims rise by 24,221, and Virginia saw an increase of 12,879, by far the biggest increases last week. Louisiana saw the biggest decrease, as the state recovers from Hurricane Ida.
Federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended by Sept. 6 in all states. The White House has said it will not extend jobless aid further, but states can use pandemic relief funds to provide additional assistance to unemployed workers.
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