Finance

Jobless claims hit new pandemic-era low in a sign of hope for the employment picture

First-time filings for unemployment insurance hit a new pandemic-era low last week, a sign that the jobs market is improving heading into the fall.

Jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 14 totaled 348,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was well below the Dow Jones estimate for 365,000 and a decline of 29,000 from the previous week.

The last time claims were this low was March 14, 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic declaration hit and sent the U.S. economy spiraling into its deepest but briefest recession on record.

In the weeks that followed, more than 22 million Americans would be sent to the unemployment line, sending the jobless rate skyrocketing to 14.8%. The jobs market has been on a steady recovery trajectory since then, but remains well off its pre-pandemic health.

Stock market futures were off their lows following the news, but contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained down nearly 300 points.

Continuing claims also fell, dropping to 2.82 million on a 79,000 decline from the week before. That data runs a week behind the headline claims number and also represented a new low since the pandemic struck.

The total of those collecting benefits under all programs fell to 11.74 million, a decline of 311,787 for the week ended July 31 and owing mostly to a big drop in those receiving enhanced benefits, which will come to a complete close in September. A year ago, the total under all programs stood at 28.7 million.

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