Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 744,000 for the week ended April 3 compared to 728,000 in the prior week, the US Labor Department said on Thursday.

Iran Press/America: The total represented an increase of 16,000 from the previous week as the four-week moving average edged higher to 723,750.

The news comes a week after a sign of more aggressive healing in the labor market, as nonfarm payrolls in March increased by 916,000 while the unemployment rate fell to 6%.

That was the biggest job gain since August, though unemployment remains well above the pre-pandemic low of 3.5%.

Continuing claims provided some good news on the labor front, with the total dropping 16,000 to 3.73 million. That’s the lowest level for continuing claims since March 21, 2020, just after the Covid pandemic hit and companies instituted wholesale layoffs in conjunction with the economic shutdown. Continuing claims run a week behind the headline weekly number.

A year ago, that total was just 3.44 million but surged shortly thereafter due to massive layoffs in late March and early April.

California and New York accounted for most of the rise in jobs, with respective increases of 38,963 and 15,714, according to unadjusted data. Those increases were offset somewhat by a decline of 13,944 in Alabama and 10,502 in Ohio.

Economists said filing backlogs could be one factor driving the stubbornly high claims number, while spikes in Covid cases for some states also could be keeping filings elevated.

Markets reacted little to the data, with stock futures and government bond yields mixed.

Despite recent progress, Federal Reserve officials say much more progress is needed on the jobs front before they think about changing policy.