Initial unemployment claims in the U.S. leapt to a fresh high on Thursday after posting weeks of figures that fell below pre-pandemic levels. 

 In new data from the Department of Labor, the agency reported 230,000 initial unemployment claims for the week ending on Jan. 8. This was a 23,000 increase from the previous week’s 207,000 claims that were recorded on Jan. 1. This figure was notable because it was 30,000 claims higher than the 200,000 that was expected by forecasts. 

These numbers remain low compared to those seen at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and they have remained on a generally steady decline even as cases of the new Omicron variant continue to push numbers higher. Yet a sharp rise in initial unemployment claims and recent poor job numbers suggest that there may be growing sluggishness in job growth. 

Last week, the Labor Department shared its latest nonfarm payroll report, which found that only 199,000 jobs were added in December last year. The Biden administration brushed off these numbers by insisting that more Americans were moving to better paying jobs in other parts of the economy rather than giving up on joining the workforce. 

Continuing claims, which measure the week behind the headline numbers in the Labor Department data, stood at 1,948,624, an increase of 226,264 from the previous week.