Unemployment Claims Show Slow Progress

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment insurance fell to a new pandemic-era low last week, continuing to recover slowly.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to 360,000 in the week through July 10, the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, according to seasonally adjusted data released Thursday by the Labor Department.

Uneven progress so far this summer stopped the momentum built in the spring, which nearly halved the weekly volume of claims after they’d stayed stuck at about four times pre-pandemic levels for many months. Volume is still nearly twice as high as it was immediately before the pandemic, just one sign the job market hasn’t improved as smoothly as other parts of the economy.

Many have blamed a $300 federal supplement to weekly unemployment benefits—part of pandemic relief—for the labor market’s struggles, and this spring most Republican state governors decided to remove their states from federal benefit programs early to make returning to work more attractive.

“The overall number of claims across all programs will start to drop more precipitously” as more benefits end in the coming weeks, Dante D’Antonio, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, wrote in a commentary.

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