The Department of Labor reported Thursday that new weekly jobless claims rose to 744,000 for the week ending on April 3rd.

Economists expected a decrease to 680,000 from last week’s 719,000. This is the second consecutive week in which jobless claims have increased when a decrease was expected. 

Jobless claims can be very volatile on a weekly basis, therefore economists like to look at the four-week average. This rose by 2,500 to 723,750. Continuing claims, which get reported with a week’s lag, fell to 3,734,000, a decrease of 16,000, in the week ended March 27.

The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits for the week ending March 20 was 18,164,588, a decrease of just 50,862 from the previous week.

Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27, that’s more than ten times the previous record. Each week through spring and summer claims declined. However, in late July the labor market stalled and claims rose to new record highs. In the last weeks claims have been once again moving steadily downward.

In March, many states eased or eliminated restrictions on businesses, including restaurants and bars. Forty-three states are now mostly open, this has led to an increase in economic activity. As well, the American Rescue Act authorized $1.9 trillion of stimulus money, although only a small fraction of that has been spent so far.

But as of late,  infections have been on the rise, which could be ahinder workers seeking employment.

The latest US Department of Labor data came a week after a report that showed the economy adding 916,000 jobs in March.

“To put this week’s level of claims in perspective, a year ago this shocking number topped 6 million,” said Mark Hamick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It wasn’t until August that it consistently stayed below 1 million. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels.”