First-time filings for unemployment insurance hit a 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.
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.
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.
Overall, the drop could be good news for a jobs market that has seen nonfarm payrolls increase by 2.5 million over the past three months and the unemployment rate fall to 5.4% from 6.3% at the beginning of the year. Thursday’s data reflects the period the Labor Department uses as its survey week for the monthly nonfarm payrolls count.