Initial jobless claims declined for the third consecutive week as the U.S. labor market continued its recovery from last year’s recession.
New claims for jobless benefits totaled 375,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, matching estimates from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The reading for the previous week was revised upward by 2,000 to 387,000 claims.
Jobless claims numbers have come down sharply since the spring as the economy has recovered, and they have settled near the 400,000 level in recent weeks. The four-week average is now 396,250 initial claims.
The latest jobless claims report, which reflects the first week of August, came a week after the July jobs report showed a bigger-than-expects gain in employment. There were also a record high number of open jobs at the end of July.
Eligibility of unemployment benefits, and the payouts, were expanded during the pandemic as businesses were forced to close due to public health restrictions. Some states have already ended the expanded programs, while the national program is set to expire next month.
The number of insured unemployment claims, a measure of continuing jobless claims, fell to 2.866 million for the last week of July, according to Thursday’s report. That is the lowest level since mid-March 2020. A broader measure of continued unemployment, which includes pandemic-specific benefits and other programs, also declined week over week.
The state of the labor recovery has been a key metric for investors, as Federal Reserve officials decided to let inflation run hotter than normal in an effort to bring back jobs lost during last year’s shutdowns. Fed Governor Christopher Waller told CNBC earlier this month that strong jobs reports in August and September could lead the central bank to slow its asset purchases in the fall.