On Thursday, the Department of Labor said that new weekly jobless claims rose unexpectedly by 13,000 to 861,000 during the week that ended February 13.

Economists expected unemployment claims to fall to 768,00 from the 793,000 that were reported last week. The previous week’s amount was corrected by additional 55,000 to a total of 848,000.

Unemployment claims can change significantly from week to week, which is why economists like to look at the four-week average. This fell to 833,250, 3,500 below the prior week’s average. Before the pandemic, the highest amount of claims was 695,000 in October of 1982. In March of 2009, during the financial recession, jobless claims were its highest at 665,000.

Many businesses will adjust their employee count as they adapt to new market conditions. But in the current  labor market, those employees quickly find jobs but some may never show up on employment rolls. Which may be happening now that workers who lose their jobs cannot quickly find replacement work and are forced to apply for benefits.

To those who were previously ineligible, such as self-employed workers or small business owners, there are now two new programs offering unemployment benefits. 

For months now, the number of jobless benefit claims has remained above 700,000 a week, and above 800,000 and 900,000 in some weeks. Every weekly total in the last months have all been well below the 6.9 million record number of claims filed late last March as the pandemic took its stranglehold over the U.S.