© Bloomberg. A worker inspects structural steel beams at a facility in West Jordan, Utah. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — Applications for U.S. state unemployment rose for the first time in five weeks as the labor market makes its way to a full recovery in fits and starts.
Initial unemployment claims in regular state programs totaled in the week ended Aug. 21, up 4,000 from the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a slight increase to 350,000 new applications.
Continuing claims for state benefits fell slightly to in the week ended Aug. 14.
The increase in unemployment claims likely reflects volatility in the weekly data against a backdrop of elevated labor demand. The delta variant that’s fueled a recent surge in new infections across the country poses a risk, though there’s so far been little evidence to suggest that health concerns are leading to dismissals.
Still, lawmakers are wary of the threat the highly infectious variant poses to a broader economic recovery.
Companies are postponing a return to the office, issuing mask requirements and vaccine mandates to curb the spread. The Biden administration has emphasized the need to reopen the economy, but cautioned that businesses need to protect workers and consumers.
Read More: Delta Upends U.S. Labor Chief’s Plans for Swift Jobs Comeback
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