New jobless claims dropped 20,000 to 385,000 for the week ended May 29, the Department of Labor said Thursday.
Economists had expected claims to fall to 400,000 from last week’s lower-than-expected 406,000. Last week’s figure was revised down by 1,000 to 405,000.
Continuing claims for unemployment claims during the week ending May 22 was 3,771,000, an increase of 169,000 from the previous week’s revised level, which was a record low for the post-pandemic period.
Claims can be volatile week to week so economists like to look to the four-week moving average for an indicator of the health of the labor market. This fell to 428,000, a decrease of 30,500 from the previous week’s revised average.
The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs—including those that extend benefits beyond their normal 26-week cut-off and offer benefits to gig workers and self-employed—for the week ending May 15 was 15,435,982, a decrease of 366,178 from the previous week. There were 30,770,615 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020. The very high number suggests that many Americans are avoiding returning to work because they remain eligible for enhanced levels of unemployment benefits.
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, with some blaming super-sized unemployment benefits for keeping Americans out of work.
The Department of Labor will report May’s employment figures on Friday. It is expected to show 645,000 new jobs, including 600,000 in the private sector. The unemployment rate is expected to fall from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent.