Ooops — Jobless claims unexpectedly rise to 286,000, highest since October

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to the highest level since mid-October as an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant threatened to undermine the economy’s recovery.

Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show that applications for the week ended Jan. 15 jumped to 286,000 from a revised 231,000 a week earlier, sharply missing the 220,000 forecast by Refinitiv analysts.

Continuing claims, or the number of Americans who are consecutively receiving unemployment aid, rose to 1.635 million, an increase of 84,000 from the week’s previous level.

The report shows that roughly 2.13 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits for the week ending Jan. 1, an increase of 180,114 from the previous week; by comparison, just a little over one year ago, an estimated 16.94 million Americans were receiving benefits.