The latest weekly initial jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Thursday by the Ministry of Labor.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled 293,000, the lowest level since March 14, 2020. Pending claims, which indicate the number of people receiving ongoing benefits, have fallen to 2.59 million, a other lower.
The latest figure has largely exceeded economists’ forecast of 318,000, and indicates that companies are retaining their workers in a tight labor market.
“A sharp drop in jobless claims for the most recent week has finally broken through the 300,000 barrier and is the strongest evidence to date that the Covid-19 delta wave has lost its influence on layoffs,” said said Robert Frick, business economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “I hope we can quickly resume the fall to the pre-Covid era average of around 200,000.”
Thursday’s figure contrasts with the latest monthly jobs report, which showed the slowest job growth so far this year, with just 194,000 jobs added in September. This came in the hope that ending extended unemployment benefits, reopening schools and continuing vaccinations would boost hiring.
“With so many jobs available and opportunities to work remotely at least part of the time, the good news is that workers have a reasonable chance of improving their employment situation, including better wages and working conditions. Obviously, that’s what many want, “said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.