US weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since mid-March

The US Labor Department said on Thursday that another 963,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. It’s the first time in five months that the number is below a million.

It was the lowest number of weekly initial claims since mid-March, when the US economy went into shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus. Still, the numbers are historically high. In the same week last year, just 218,000 people filed for initial benefits. 

Continued jobless claims, which count people who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 15.5 million on a seasonally adjusted basis. Without the adjustment, the number was 15.2 million.

Economists say it’s encouraging that claims for unemployment are going down because it means people keep returning to work.

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“The labor market continues to improve, but unemployment remains a huge problem for the US economy,” wrote chief economist at PNC Financial Services Gus Faucher, according to CNBC. “The number of people filing for unemployment insurance, both regular and PUA benefits, continues to steadily decline as layoffs abate. But job losses remain extremely elevated, far above their pre-pandemic level.”

The total number of jobless claims marks the second week of declines since a provision expired on July 31 that gave unemployment insurance recipients an extra $600 a week on top of their normal compensation. Congressional negotiations are currently underway to extend the financial relief after President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would provide an extra $400.

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