Initial Claims Fall Again, Set Third Straight Low

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the third straight week, setting a pandemic-era low again and building confidence that the jobs market recovery has, in fact, begun.

In the week ending April 24, there were 553,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance, 13,000 fewer than the previous week’s revised total, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. The number was in the range of what economists expected, with 552,392 claims forecasted according to a median estimate cited by Moody’s Analytics.

Initial claims, for months, had been stuck at levels three to four times higher than before the pandemic, and, even at the new pandemic-era low, are more than twice the level before the economy locked down last year. Hiring picked up last month, with the U.S. economy adding 916,000 jobs, the most in seven months. While seemingly on the right track now, jobs will likely take longer to recover, even if a boom in hiring continues through the spring and summer, economists said.

“Claims, which are down 189,000 since the start of April, are on a clear downward path,” wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at U.K.-based research firm Oxford Economics, in a commentary. “However, a broad and inclusive recovery in the labor market will be a gradual process.”

The labor market recovery has lagged behind the rest of the economy, despite increasingly optimistic signs of economic growth this year. Gross domestic product numbers, also released Thursday, showed a stimulus-fueled 6.4% jump in GDP, an output that puts the economy on track to return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming months.