Jobless claims falls to fresh pandemic low at 444,000

Workers filing for new unemployment benefits fell to a new pandemic-era low in the latest week, as the labor market continued to heal from the worst days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department of Labor released its weekly report on new jobless claims Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics expected from the report, compared to consensus data compiled by Bloomberg:

Initial jobless claims, week ended May 15: 444,000 vs. 450,000 expected and 473,000 during prior week

Continuing claims, week ended May 8: 3.751 million vs. 3.62 million expected and 3.655 million during prior week

Since the beginning of the year, weekly jobless claims have tumbled by nearly half, and have fallen precipitously from their pandemic-era high of more than 6 million last year.

Steady improvement over the last several months — amplified by the COVID-19 mass vaccination effort and the relaxation of lockdowns across the country, have created more positions while sparking an increasingly acute labor shortage.

Companies have had to hike wages in order to entice badly needed workers as demand surges, stoking a furious debate over supplemental unemployment benefits that critics contend have become a barrier to hiring.

Prior to the pandemic, new jobless claims averaged just over 200,000 per week throughout 2019.

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