Downward March in Unemployment Claims Continues

Worker opening the door at a cafe wearing a facemask.

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance continued a downward march, falling to 376,000 last week, a positive sign that layoffs are declining and jobs may be coming back at an accelerating pace.

The 376,000 is yet another pandemic-era low and a decline of 9,000 from the previous week, according to seasonally adjusted data released by the Labor Department Thursday. Before COVID-19, weekly figures were in the low 200,000s. 

During the early months of the pandemic, there were as many as 6 million initial unemployment claims in one week. But even as the economy began to recover, claims only recovered to a point, lingering at 700,000 or 800,000 a week for much of the last year.  As recently as early April, the weekly number was almost twice as high as it is now.

The recent steady decline shows layoffs are declining and becoming less of a concern, economists said. The bigger issue is people’s ability and willingness to work. The need to provide childcare continues to be a major challenge and isn’t likely to dissipate until schools fully reopen, hopefully in the fall, according to Ryan Sweet, an economist with Moody’s Analytics.