The number of Americans newly seeking jobless benefits dropped again last week, inching closer to pre-pandemic levels amid the historically tight labor market, the feds said Thursday.
As of last week, initial filings for unemployment benefits, seen as a proxy for layoffs, fell to 269,000, down 14,000 from the prior week’s revised level of 283,000, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected to see new claims edge down to 275,000 after seeing three consecutive weeks of surprisingly large decreases.
Weekly new claims have fallen substantially from the 2020 peak of about 6.1 million new claims in a single week, and in recent weeks have inched closer to the 200,000 new claims per week seen before the pandemic.
Still, economists say the labor market has a long way to go before reaching normalcy after national reads on employment for the last two months showed less-than-expected gains in new jobs.
The feds will release October’s jobs gains on Friday, with the non-farm payroll report, which is expected to show that the US added 450,000 jobs in October, more than double the payroll gains seen in September and more than the 366,000 jobs added in August.
Thursday’s report also showed that continuing claims fell by 134,000 from the prior week’s revised level, according to the new data. That figure stood at about 7 million at the same time last year, in the thick of the pandemic.
Just over 2.1 million Americans remain on traditional state unemployment benefits, the feds added.
The latest jobless claims report comes a week after the feds announced that the US GDP rose just 2 percent in the third quarter of the year — slower than expected — as the supercharged economic recovery from COVID-19 slowed down amid rampant inflation and supply-chain bottlenecks.
It was the third consecutive quarter that the US GDP growth number has missed expectations under President Joe Biden.
Still, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said Wednesday that the economy is now strong enough to begin tapering the Fed’s bond-buying program that’s given stocks a lift throughout the pandemic.
At the same time, Powell said the Fed is still leaving interest rates near zero — even as inflation stays stubbornly high — emphasizing that he still thinks rising prices will abate as supply chain kinks are worked out.