Initial jobless claims hit their highest point since August, tallying tens of thousands of more filings than expected, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
First-time claims climbed up to a seasonally adjusted 351,000 last week, up from 335,000 the week before and above the Dow Jones estimate of 320,000. Claims are at their highest point since the week that ended Aug. 21, when 354,000 Americans applied for initial jobless benefits. Continued jobless claims are at 2.8 million, above the pre-pandemic count of 1.7 million.
The uptick in claims comes amid growing concerns about the country's inflation surge and lagging job growth. Inflation has increased by 5.3 percent over the last year, hitting a 13-year high last month, the Labor Department reported last week. Job growth also recorded a seven-month low, the department reported. The modest numbers have led some economists to warn about the return of "stagflation," which hampered the U.S. economy in the 1970s.
"Now one can make a case that 'mild' stagflation is already underway," New York University economist Nouriel Roubini wrote last month. "Inflation is rising in the United States and many advanced economies, and growth is slowing sharply, despite massive monetary, credit, and fiscal stimulus."
President Joe Biden is pushing for trillions of dollars in record spending, even as some Democratic lawmakers, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), warn it will worsen the economy's inflation problems. The White House also faced criticism for its enhanced employment benefits, which expired this month, with some economists saying the additional jobless benefits kept thousands of Americans out of the workforce. Job openings reached a record 10.9 million in July while millions of Americans remained unemployed, the Labor Department reported last month.
While businesses confront worker shortages, the Biden administration has ordered COVID-related restrictions on employment. Biden announced earlier this month that employees of federal agencies and businesses with more than 100 workers are required to receive coronavirus vaccines.