New jobless claims hit their pandemic crisis-era lows last week, indicating hiring continues even though at a slower pace.
Unemployment claims for the first time stood at 712,000 last week, up from 780,000 according to a Dow Jones survey of economists, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
This marked a decrease from the revised upward level of 787,000 a week ago.
The labor market has shown resilience even in the face of the new wave of Covid-19 cases. Compensation claims are well below their peak of 6.9 million at the end of March, but remain above the pre-pandemic record.
Continuing claims also fell sharply, dropping from 569,000 to 5.52 million.
The publication of the claims comes a day before the Labor Department releases its closely watched non-farm payroll report for November. The Dow Jones estimates are for wage bill growth of 440,000 and a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.7%.
The report is also the first since the Government Accountability Office issued a report indicating that weekly unemployment claims figures were inaccurate during the pandemic. The watchdog cited countless case backlogs, frauds and other state-level discrepancies as obstacles to an accurate count.
The GAO recommended that the Department of Labor issue a disclaimer regarding the potential count inaccuracy, but none have been included in this report.
“The dip in the original claims does not disprove the idea that the trend is up; we expected a steep decline due to the difficulty of adjusting for Thanksgiving,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note. “Initial claims are likely to rebound strongly next week, likely surpassing the 800K mark for the first time in eight weeks.”
Pandemic unemployment assistance claims actually fell for the week, dropping from over 30,000 to 288,701. The program offers benefits to those who were not normally eligible before the pandemic.
However, deposits have continued to increase for the Emergency Pandemic Program, which targets those who have lost their normal benefits. That total increased from nearly 60,000 to 4.57 million for the week ended November 14, the most recent period for which data is available.
In all, 20.16 million Americans were receiving some sort of benefit, a decrease of 349,633 from the previous period, according to data also up to Nov. 14. This compares to 1.57 million a year ago.
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