Jobless Data Is Now Firmly in New Territory

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That’s how many weeks in a row a widely viewed measure of the nation’s unemployment has fallen to a new pandemic-era low, a strong signal that the recovery in the job market is well underway.

Since the week through April 3, the 4-week moving average for the number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance has fallen 23% to 560,000, setting new lows for the pandemic era every week, according to seasonally adjusted data released by the Department of Labor Thursday. And while the moving average is seen as a less volatile measure than week-to-week movements, the most recent week of data showed claims dropping below 500,000 for the first time since COVID-19 shut down the economy in March 2020.  The data helped buoy benchmark stock indexes Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising almost 1% to close at 34,548.53, yet another record high.

More good news might be on the way Friday, when the government releases its monthly jobs report for April. Economists expect the U.S. to have added nearly 1 million jobs in April after March saw almost as big of a gain—the largest in seven months.

"Jobless claims have fallen sharply since the start of April, bringing them more in line with other labor market data that show the jobs recovery picking up speed,” Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in a commentary.