New US unemployment benefit claims resume their downward slide

Washington (AFP) –


Fewer Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, reversing a recent uptick in the metric of labor market health, government data said Thursday.

The Labor Department reported 326,000 new claims, seasonally adjusted, filed in the week ended October 2, 38,000 less than the previous week's upwardly revised level and fewer than analysts had expected.

After soaring into the millions as the Covid-19 pandemic began, new unemployment filings have dropped substantially over the course of this year as vaccines allow businesses to return to normal and rehire workers.

Last week's data reverses a three-week streak of increases, and brings claims back to where they were about a month ago, according to the data, but above their pre-pandemic level of 256,000.

Ian Shepherdson on Pantheon Macroeconomics blamed the disruptive effects of Hurricane Ida for the uptick in past weeks, but said the trends shown in this report indicate "a good chance of claims dipping below 300,000 later this month for the first time since mid-March 2020."

Another 23,453 new claims, not seasonally adjusted, were made last week under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for freelancers not normally eligible for aid -- likely backlogged applications, since that program expired around a month ago.

As of the week ended September 18, more than 4.1 million people were receiving benefits under all programs, more than 850,000 less than the week prior.