Jobless Claims Dip to 751,000, Lowest Since March

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - DECEMBER 9: President-elect Donald Trump looks on during a rally at the
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New weekly jobless claims fell to 751,000 for the week ended October 31, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

Economists had expected 7450,000 initial claims. The prior week’s claims, initially reported at 751,000, was revised up to 758,000.

The 4-week moving average fell to 787,000, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised average. Many economists think this is a better measure of the labor market than the weekly number, which can be volatile.

Despite the decline, jobless claims—which are a proxy for layoffs—remain at extremely high levels. Prior to the pandemic, the highest level of claims was 695,000 hit in October of 1982. In March of 2009, jobless claims peaked at 665,000.

Continuing claims, those made after the initial filing for benefits,  fell to 7,285,000, a decrease of 538,000 from the previous week’s revised level. These get reported with a week’s lag so this number is for the week ended October 24.

Prior to the pandemic, the highest level of continuing claims was 6.6 million in June of 2009.

The previous week’s level was revised up 67,000 from 7,756,000 to 7,823,000. The 4-week moving average was 8,244,500, a decrease of 827,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 18,500 from 9,053,250 to 9,071,750.

Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27. Through spring and early summer, 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.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending October 17 were in Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, California, and Nevada. For the country overall, the insured unemployment rate fell to 5.0. This is different from the unemployment rate the government will report on Friday because it counts only jobless claims covered by unemployment insurance, while the broader unemployment rate includes all looking for a job but out of work.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending October 24 were in Illinois and Michigan.

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