Weekly Jobless claims falls to pandemic era low of 360,000

New weekly jobless claims fell to the lowest level since March 2020, closing back in on pre-pandemic levels as the rate of new joblessness slowed further.

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

Initial jobless claims, week ended July 10: 360,000 vs. 350,000 expected and a revised 386,000 during prior week

Continuing claims, week ended July 3: 3.241 million vs. 3.300 million expected and a revised 3.367 million during prior week

Initial unemployment claims extended a months-long downward trend and came in below the psychologically important 400,000 level for a third straight week. During the comparable week in mid-July last year, new filings totaled 1.5 million.

Continuing jobless claims also improved to the lowest level since March 2020. And the total number of claimants across all programs, including both regular state and pandemic-era federal unemployment programs, dipped markedly to 13.8 million during the week ended June 26. This represented a drop of nearly 400,000 from the previous week.

The weekly jobless claims numbers help capture the pace of those rendered newly unemployed. However, labor supply shortages have become the primary concern in returning the job market to its pre-pandemic conditions.

The National Federation of Independent Business said that a historically elevated 46% of small business owners reported job openings that could not be filled in June, and that a record high of 39% of owners reported raising compensation in order to attract workers.

In the Labor Department’s latest June jobs report, the labor force participation rate stayed flat even as payroll gains handily exceeded estimates, reflecting an elevated number of workers still yet to reenter the workforce.

And according to the government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, the layoffs and discharge rate hit an all-time low of 0.9% in May, further underscoring that the labor market’s latest strains have been for lack of supply, not demand.

A multitude of factors seen as inhibiting labor supplies are expected to ease by the fall, however, with schools set to reopen to alleviate child care concerns, more vaccinations taking place to help lessen lingering COVID-19 concerns, and enhanced unemployment benefits expiring across states.

How quickly these factors drive an increase in labor force participation, however, remains to be seen, and has given monetary policymakers reason to wait and see the incoming data before removing some of their supportive policies for the recovering economy.

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