New jobless claims dropped 38,000 to 406,000 for the week ended May 22, the Department of Labor said Thursday.
Economists had expected an uptick in claims to 450,000 from last week’s lower-than-expected 444,0000.
This is the lowest level of jobless claims since March 14, 2020, when it was 256,000.
Jobless claims can be volatile week-to-week, so analysts often look to the 4-week moving average for a better view of the labor market’s health. This fell to 458,750, a decrease of 46,000 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 504,750.
Continuing claims, which get released with a week’s delay, fell to 3,642,000 for the week ended May 15, a decrease of 96,000 from the previous week’s revised level.
Initial claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27, 2020, more than ten times the previous record. This year has seen immense progress in bringing down the number of new claims, as mass layoffs were offset by a huge hiring spree in the first quarter of the year. Yet job creation fell far short of estimates in April and many businesses have said they are having difficulty hiring workers.
The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs—including extended benefits programs and programs for self-employed workers—for the week ending May 8 was 15,802,126, a decrease of 175,255 from the previous week. There were 31,578,845 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020.