The number of Americans newly seeking jobless benefits continued to fall last week, reaching another pandemic-era low despite concerns over the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant, the feds said Thursday.
Initial filings for unemployment benefits, seen as a proxy for layoffs, fell to 310,000 last week, down 35,000 from the prior week’s revised level 345,000, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected to see weekly new claims drop to 335,000.
Weekly new claims have fallen substantially from the 2020 peak of about 6.1 million new claims in a single week, but economists have expressed concern that in recent weeks, they appear to have settled at an elevated level.
Since the beginning of June, the number of weekly new claims has vacillated in a range between around 350,000 and 424,000. It finally appears to be making steady downward progress after a summer lull.
Still, the country was averaging just over 200,000 new claims per week in 2019.
Nearly 2.8 million Americans remained on traditional state unemployment benefits, the feds added.
Continuing claims fell by just 22,000 from the prior week’s revised level, according to the new data. That figure stood at more than 13 million at the same time last year, in the thick of the pandemic.
Those claims have fallen significantly since peaks seen in 2020, but the figure remains almost twice as high as pre-pandemic levels.
The latest data comes a week after the feds reported a huge miss in the August jobs report.
The country added only 235,000 jobs last month, falling way short of expectations and stoking concerns that the economic recovery is stalling out amid another surge in COVID-19 cases.
“There’s no question the Delta variant is why today’s job report isn’t stronger. I know people were looking and I was hoping for a higher number,” President Joe Biden said last week of the report.