Weekly Jobless Claims Drop To Pandemic Low

Male entrepreneur with face mask reading documents while waiting for job interview in a hallway.
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits last week fell to their lowest level since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, while layoffs in August hit their lowest point in more than two decades, signaling that the labor market is finally showing signs of significant improvement.

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First-time jobless claims totaled 340,000 for the week ended Aug. 28, the U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday. As CNBC reported, that was the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020. The total also came in below the 345,000 claims predicted by Dow Jones. However, the level of initial claims for the week ended Aug. 21 was revised up by 1,000, to 354,000.

Meanwhile, Reuters noted that layoffs in August fell to their lowest level in more than 24 years.

Continuing claims, a measure of ongoing benefits, numbered 2.75 million for the week ended Aug. 28, which was a decrease of 160,000 from the prior week’s revised level. The continuing claims number also represents the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, wrote in a research note that the decline in jobless benefits partially reflects the need for many companies to fill payrolls in a tightening labor market.

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“Bottom line, we now have the lowest initial filings for claims and smallest level of continuing claims since everything changed in March last year,” Boockvar wrote. “Just listen to any company that is looking to expand and you’ll hear stories about the difficulty in finding positions so it makes sense that claims continue to decline.”

The jobless claims report comes one day ahead of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report. According to economist projections, the jobs report should show that U.S. employers added 720,000 payrolls in August and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.2% from 5.4% the previous month.

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“We expect the jobs report to show that the economy continued to add jobs at a rapid pace in August, defying COVID-19 Delta variant outbreaks across the country,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, told Reuters.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte MagazineStreet & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, will be published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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