Jobless Claims Continue Descent, Hit New Pandemic Low

With jobs going unfilled, employers seem anxious to keep the workers they have

Two Women at Work
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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance dropped again last week, achieving a pandemic-era low for the second week in a row as businesses held onto willing workers.

Initial claims for benefits fell to 310,000 for the week through Sept. 4, a decrease of 35,000 from the previous week’s revised level and fewer than economists expected, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. Weekly volumes are now less than 60,000 away from the last level before the pandemic, 256,000 on March 14, 2020. It’s progress considering that claims hovered in the 750,000-900,000 range for much of the last year.

The size of the drop last week could be the effect of the Labor Day holiday weekend and Hurricane Ida preventing some people from filing for benefits, economists said. But there’s no doubt that the volume of claims is trending down, with decreases in six of the last seven weeks. 

Businesses hired 235,000 people in August, the fewest since January, and, with hiring cooling and a record number of unfilled jobs, falling claims could be a sign that employers are reluctant to lay off workers, wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, in a commentary Thursday. There were 10.9 million job openings in the U.S. at the end of July—the fifth straight month of record highs—according to a government report released Wednesday.

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