People wait in a line outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville, Ky., April 15, 2021. (Amira Karaoud/Reuters)

First-time filings for unemployment benefits jumped to the highest level in a month last week, coming in well ahead of the 320,000 claims that Dow Jones predicted.

With 351,000 jobless claims, the week ending September 18 saw the highest total claims since the week of August 21, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The figure marked a climb from the previous week’s upwardly revised 335,000 claims.

In total, 2.8 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits during the week of September 11, an increase of 131,000 from the week before.

While the economy has recovered roughly 17 million jobs since pandemic shutdowns began in March 2020, jobless claims still remain elevated from what they were in pre-pandemic times, when they typically hovered around 220,000 a week.

The latest report could be a sign that the delta variant of COVID-19 is slowing the job market’s recovery. Hiring, which has averaged more than 585,000 jobs a month this year, dropped to just 235,000 in August amid rising concern over the delta variant.

Thursday’s report comes weeks after more than 8 million people lost their unemployment benefits after two pandemic-related federal unemployment measures that covered gig workers and people who had been jobless for more than six months expired.

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