Weekly unemployment claims better than expected as workers leave jobless rolls

Key Points
  • Unemployment claims totaled 1.5 million last week compared with the 1.6 million Dow Jones estimate and 355,000 fewer than the previous week.
  • Continuing claims, or those collecting benefits for at least two weeks, declined to 20.9 million, 339,000 fewer than the previous week.
  • The total claims number has fallen for 10 straight weeks but remains extremely high on a historical basis. 
US weekly jobless claims total 1.542 million, vs 1.6 million estimate
US weekly jobless claims total 1.542 million, vs 1.6 million estimate

The pace of unemployment claims declined again last week as the U.S. jobs market continued its plodding recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Initial claims totaled 1.54 million, compared with the 1.6 million expected from economists surveyed by Dow Jones and a plunge of 355,000 from the previous week's total just shy of 1.9 million. The four-week moving average, which smooths volatility in the numbers fell by 286,250 to 2 million.

Though the total decelerated for the 10th straight week, it still represents a stunningly sharp exodus of workers to the unemployment line over the past three months. There were 705,676 claims filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Those collecting benefits declined by 339,000 to 20.9 million, compared with the crisis peak of 24.9 million during the week of May 9. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell to 21.9 million, a decrease of 404,750 from a week earlier.

The report comes a week after the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that nonfarm payrolls increased by 2.5 million in May, though reporting errors have cast some doubt about how aggressive the recovery has been so far.

The insured unemployment rate, which is a basic measure that counts those collecting benefits against the total labor force, fell 0.2 percentage points to 14.4%.

At the state level, Florida saw a plunge of 97,187 filings, while California increased by 29,426, according to unadjusted data.

The massive surge in unemployment claims came as the government shut down about 90% of the economy to help stem the coronavirus. The total peaked at nearly 6.9 million for the week of March 28, by far the biggest total in U.S. history.

Since the pandemic began, more than 44 million workers have filed claims, with the government extending the duration of unemployment insurance and offering many workers what they would normally collect plus $600. Those benefits are set to expire July 31, though Congress has been considering proposals aimed at extending the measures.

How unemployment benefits are calculated
How unemployment benefits are calculated