The numbers: The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in late August rose for the first time in five weeks, but new jobless claims remained near a low for the pandemic era and suggest the economy is still doing pretty well despite a surge in coronavirus cases.

Initial jobless claims in the states increased by 4,000 to 353,000 in the week ended Aug. 21, the government said Thursday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 350,000.

Read: Delta deals small blow to economy in August, but businesses remain upbeat

Before the pandemic, initial jobless claims averaged about 220,000 a week. They soared to as high as 6.9 million in one week alone early in pandemic and have been falling ever since.

Big picture: Restaurants, hotels and other companies that deal face to face with customers have lost some business because of the rise of the coronavirus delta variant as more people stay at home.

Yet most firms are still ringing up fairly strong sales and they are trying to hire more workers in anticipation of the passing of the latest coronavirus wave.

What could upset their plans is if the delta variant spreads further, more people stay at home and sales slow. The Federal Reserve is watching closely as it debates when to start easing back on its support for the economy.

Key details: New claims rose the most in Maryland, Illinois and California. The biggest declines took place in Michigan, Virginia and Texas.

An additional 117,709 people filed new claims for benefits through a temporary federal program. The benefits are supposed to end Sept. 6, but the Biden administration has told states it can continue to provide them using other federal stimulus funds.

Read: Want to buy a new car? Record prices and vehicle shortages abound

The number of people already collecting state jobless benefits, meanwhile, dipped by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.86 million. These so-called continuing claims are also at a pandemic era low.

Altogether, some 12 million people were reportedly receiving benefits through eight separate state or federal programs as of Aug. 7.

At the height of the pandemic total claims topped 30 million, though fraud and duplicate cases likely accounted for a portion of the overall number.

Read: Delta is making Americans nervous and raising fresh worries on economy

What they are saying? “Although there was an uptick this week, we do not think there is anything to be particularly concerned about here,” said Thomas Simmons, money market economist at Jefferies LLC.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

opened little changed in Thursday trades.

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