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Jobless claims on Long Island and in the U.S. rose last week 

Even with the rise in unemployment claims, measures

Even with the rise in unemployment claims, measures of the overall economy show improvement; above, a storefront in Bay Shore; Credit: Raychel Brightman

Unemployment claims on Long Island jumped last week by more than 35% and also rose nationally to a smaller degree.

Islanders filed 7,489 new jobless claims during the last full week of March, up from the 5,516 claims the week prior, the state Labor Department reported Thursday. The rise follows a decline in claims the week before, continuing an up-and-down pattern.

While the recent figures show a sizable uptick, the Island is a far cry from the record-breaking highs of a year earlier, when 52,390 Long Islanders filed.

Nationally, the number of people seeking financial aid rose as well, by 61,000 last week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy.

Though the pace of applications has dropped sharply since early this year, they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, new jobless claims typically ran below 220,000 a week.

Still, the four-week average of U.S. claims, which smooths out week-to-week gyrations, fell by 10,500 to 719,000 — the fewest since mid-March 2020, just before the pandemic began to cause widespread layoffs.

All told, 3.8 million people were collecting traditional state benefits during the week ending March 20. If you include federal programs that are meant to help the unemployed through the health crisis, 18.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid in the week that ended March 13. That's down from 19.7 million in the previous week.

Economists monitor weekly applications for unemployment aid for early signs of where the job market is headed. Applications generally reflect the rate of layoffs, which normally fall steadily as a job market strengthens. During the pandemic, though, the numbers have become less reliable as states have struggled with application backlogs and allegations of fraud have clouded the actual volume of job cuts.

Even so, measures of the overall economy show clear improvement from the collapse last spring, with the rising number of vaccinations encouraging people to return to airports, shopping centers, restaurants and bars.

In February, employers added a robust 379,000 jobs across the country. Last month, they are believed to have added even more: According to the data firm FactSet, economists expect the March jobs report being released Friday to show that the economy added a sizable 614,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate fell from 6.2% to 6%. With AP

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