The number of initial jobless claims in the United States fell to 963,000 last week, the first time it has dipped below one million since mid-March, the country’s labor department said.
In the week ending August 8, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped by 228,000 from an upwardly revised 1,191,000 in the prior week, the department said in a report on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.
The report also showed that the four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 86,250 to 1.25 million.
“The level of claims is still higher than it ever was pre-pandemic and remains a glaring reminder that this recovery is only beginning, but it does feel good to be below 1M,” Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, wrote in an analysis.
With the latest numbers, a staggering 56 million initial jobless claims have been filed over the past 21 weeks, indicating a mounting economic fallout related to the pandemic.
As COVID-19 shutdowns rippled through the workforce, initial jobless claims spiked by three million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, and then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28.
After that, the figures had been declining for 15 weeks consecutively — though they were still at historically high levels — before the trend was reversed in the week ending July 18 amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
Quinlan noted that continuing claims also fell through the week of August 1. “The 15.5M people still receiving benefits is down 9.4M from the peak in May, but still twice as high as during the financial crisis,” he said.
Meanwhile, claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program, totaled 488,622 in the week ending August 8, a decrease of 167,377 from the previous week, according to the report. The program, approved by Congress under the CARES Act in late March, covers independent contractors or the self-employed, who are not eligible for regular state programs.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending July 25 was 28.3 million, a decrease of three million from the previous week, the report showed.
An extra US $600 in weekly unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, but Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration remain deadlocked over the next COVID-19 relief package, with both sides blaming each other for making little progress.