New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 751,000 in the week ended October 24, the Department of Labor said Thursday.
That marks a decline of 40,000 from the previous week’s revised level. Economists had expected around 758,000 jobless claims.
The initial claims number is the lowest since March.
Weekly claims can be volatile. Many economists prefer to look at the four-week moving average of claims for signals about the labor market. This fell to 787,750, a decline of 24,500 from the previous week’s revised average.
Airlines have started laying off thousands of workers due to lack of demand for flights. A deal that had provided them with billions of funding in exchange for keeping workers on the payroll expired at the end of September. Theme parks have been forced to remain closed in much of the country and major movie theater chains remain shuttered. Restaurants are operating outdoors-only or a diminished capacity. Office towers are mostly empty. Boeing said this week that it would layoff thousands of workers due to lack of demand for new plains.
Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27. Until a month ago, each subsequent week had seen claims decline. But in late July, the labor market appeared to stall and claims hovered around one million throughout August, a level so high it was never recorded before the pandemic struck. Claims moved down again in September and have made slow, if steady, progress since.
Continuing claims, which are reported with a week’s lag, fell to 7,756,000, a decrease of 709,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The four-week moving average moved down to 9,053,250, a decrease of 1,055,750 from the previous week’s revised average and the first time since the pandemic struck that this metric dropped below 10 million.
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending October 3 were in Hawaii, California, and Nevada. Massachusetts and Kansas saw the largest increases in initial claims.