New jobless claims march lower toward pre-pandemic level

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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 268,000, down 1,000 from the prior week’s revised level of 269,000, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected to see new claims fall even lower, to 260,000 after seeing four consecutive weeks of 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 over the last three months have mostly failed to impress economists.

Thursday’s report also showed that continuing claims fell by 129,000 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.

We're hiring sign.
The labor market still has a long way to go before reaching normalcy.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Just over 2 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 Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index, which measures a basket of goods and services as well as energy and food costs, jumped 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier, its biggest year-over-year spike in more than 30 years.

The huge price increased have stoked criticism from some economists and politicians who blame the Federal Reserve, saying that Chairman Jay Powell pumped to much money into the economy through emergency pandemic programs.

Hairdresser working.
Jobless claims stood at about 7 million this time last year, during the height of the pandemic.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Last week’s scorching readout spurred some renewed calls for the Federal Reserve to hasten the tapering of its bond-buying program and to raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

But the Fed has insisted that cost increases are only temporary and that it would be a mistake to raise interest rates before the employment picture improves.



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