Jobless claims: Another 340,000 individuals filed new claims, reaching the lowest since March 2020

·3-min read

The U.S. saw the least number of new unemployment filings since March 2020 last week as employers sought out more workers to fill open positions during the recovery.

The Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims report on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended August 28: 340,000 vs. 345,000 and a revised 354,000 during the prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended August 21: 2.748 million vs. 2.808 million and a revised 2.908 million during the prior week

Initial unemployment claims returned to their downtrend after a modest uptick last week. Filings have fallen sharply relative to August last year, when new claims were coming in at nearly 900,000 a week. And as of the latest data, the four-week moving average for new claims — which smooths out volatility in the weekly data — dipped by nearly 12,000 to 355,000. 

The trajectory toward improvement has come alongside broadening vaccinations and business reopenings in the U.S., but has still been partially hindered by lingering concerns over the virus. Some economists have also pointed to federal enhanced unemployment benefits as another factor keeping some workers on the sidelines and still claiming jobless insurance. These pandemic-era programs, however, will expire by Sept. 6 in the about two dozen states still offering them.

As of the week ended Aug. 14, about 12.2 million Americans were claiming benefits of all forms, including both regular state and enhanced federal unemployment benefits. That marked an increase of nearly 179,000 versus the previous period, though the overall trend over the past several months has been decreasing. Some 9.2 million Americans were claiming benefits via the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs, which will each end within a week. 

A primary concern for the economy has remained labor supply shortages, with employers still struggling to find enough qualified workers to fill vacancies. 

Other economic data has pointed to a slowdown in the pace of rehiring, especially as the Delta variant's spread has kept some workers on the sidelines over concerns of infection. ADP's private payrolls report on Wednesday showed the U.S. economy added back just 374,000 jobs in August, falling far short of the 625,000 that had been expected. 

"The jobs recovery hasn't stalled, but new hires are clearly crawling along in the slow lane after the strong gains seen in the first half of the year," Chris Rupkey, chief economist for FWDBONDS, wrote in an email on Wednesday. "The reports of labor shortages in many industries is real and is evidence that the Fed is closer to achieving its maximum employment goal." 

Friday's "official" monthly jobs report from the Labor Department is also expected to reflect a slowdown in hiring, with consensus economists looking for 748,000 non-farm payroll additions after July's 943,000. During the survey week for the August jobs report in the middle of the month, new weekly jobless claims had reached a pandemic-era low of 349,000

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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