The Department of Labor said Thursday that new weekly jobless claims increased to 770,000 for the week ending March 13.

Economists surveyed by Econoday expected a decrease to 700,000 claims. However, last week was first reported at 712,000 but was changed to 725,000.

Jobless claims can be extremely volatile on a weekly basis, so economists look at the four-week average. The average fell to 746,250, a decline from the revised average of 762,0000 for the prior week.

Jobless claims remain at high levels. The highest number of claims prior to the pandemic was 695,000 in 1982. In march of 2009, jobless claims climbed to 665,000. 

Claims hit a record high of 6.87 million for the week of March 27, more than ten times the previous record. Through spring and early summer, each week has seen claims decline.

However, in July, the labor market appeared to stall and claims stayed around one million throughout August. Claims decreased again in September and had made slow progress until the reemergence of Covid-19.

Continuing claims, which are reported a week behind, were at 4.124 million, the lowest level since the pandemic hit.

The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs or the week ending February 27 was 18,216,463, a decrease of over 1.9 million from the previous week.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending February 27 were in Pennsylvania (6.1), Alaska (5.6), Nevada (5.4), the Virgin Islands (5.1), Connecticut (5.0), New York (4.7), Rhode Island (4.5), Illinois (4.4), Massachusetts (4.4), and California (4.2).

Critics of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill have made it clear that the economy is doing much better than expected so the need for increased spending is decreasing.