Jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, a possible sign that Omicron’s winter boom is hurting jobs.

Initial registrations for the week ended January 15 were 286,000, well above the Dow Jones estimate of 225,000 and a significant increase from the previous week’s 231,000.

The total was at its highest since the week of October 16, 2021, marking a recession after claims hit a more than 50-year low a few weeks ago.

“Omicron has provided a key to our position in the job market, but given recruitment challenges, employers are likely to want to retain their workforce,” said Mike Loewengart, Commerce Online’s chief investment strategy officer. “So there could be a near-term spike in jobless claims.”

Long-term claims, which were a week behind the main data, also rose to 1.64 million from 84,000. A bright spot in the data showed that the four-week moving average of claims pending, which resolves weekly volatility, fell 55.250 million to 1.664 million, the lowest since the week ended April 27, 2019.

California saw a 6,075 increase in demand, according to unadjusted data, while New York reported a 14,011 drop.

The total number of recipients of all unemployment benefit programs rose by 180,114 to 2.13 million, according to Jan. 1 data.

Unemployment complaints are viewed as important real-time measures of the employment situation, which have evolved to some extent but are still plagued by several trouble spots.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9% after a record year of non-farm payrolls growth. However, the overall employment level is still 2.9 million lower than in February 2020, just before the pandemic was declared.

Labor force participation is well below pre-pandemic levels, with a current rate of 61.9%, 1.5 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels. The workforce decreased by almost 2.3 million during this period.

A separate economic report Thursday morning showed that manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area grew faster than expected.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Forecast Survey recorded a score of 23.2, a measure of the percentage point difference between companies reporting expansion versus contraction. The estimate was 18.5. Only 16% of the companies surveyed said they expect to lose business while expecting gains from new orders and future shipments.

The future employment index fell 19 points to 38.4, but that still reflected expectations for job growth.

However, inflation remains a problem. The futures price index rose 23 points to 76.4, its highest level since August 1988.

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