Jobless Claims Drop to New Pandemic-Era Low

Decline to 348,000 marks fourth straight week of falling claims

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance hit a new pandemic-era low last week, falling to within 100,000 of the level last seen before lockdowns and restrictions sent joblessness soaring.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell for a fourth straight week, declining to 348,000 in the week through Aug. 14, a decrease of 29,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Labor Department. Economists had expected 366,972 claims, according to a consensus estimate cited by Moody’s Analytics.

In the week ended March 14, 2020, just before the full force of the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns caused millions of people to file for jobless benefits, 256,000 had filed initial claims. By spring 2021, the weekly volume of claims had fallen by nearly half, then hovered around the 400,000 mark for most of the summer. 

The job market has recovered in fits and starts over the last year. July saw almost a million people added to payrolls, but rising cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus are arousing concern that the economic recovery could falter. So far signs of this haven’t shown up in the data on initial claims for unemployment insurance, wrote Daniel Zhao, senior economist at career website Glassdoor. Instead, the latest number hints that businesses still want to hire workers and fill a record number of job openings.

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  1. Federal Reserve Economic Data. “Initial Claims.”

  2. Department of Labor. “Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims. Seasonally Adjusted Data,” Page 6.

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