US jobless claims slide to fresh pandemic-era low of 340,000

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  • Filings for unemployment benefits slid to 340,000 last week, setting yet another pandemic-era low.
  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to total 345,000.
  • Continuing claims fell to 2.75 million for the week that ended August 21, coming in slightly below estimates.
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The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance fell last week, reversing the previous period’s climb and reaching a new pandemic low.

Weekly jobless claims totaled an unadjusted 340,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg saw claims sliding to a pandemic low of 345,000. The reading places claims at the lowest level since March 2020 and marks the second decline in three weeks.

The previous week’s total was revised to 354,000 from 353,000.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, slid to 2.75 million for the week that ended August 21, according to the report. That came in below the median forecast of 2.81 million claims. It also marked the fifth straight pandemic low for continuing claims.

The latest claims data covers the second-to-last week before the federal boost to unemployment benefits lapses. The government’s $US300 ($AU407)-per-week supplement will end on September 6 for the 24 states that haven’t cut the benefit early. While states prematurely ending the boost have argued the move would push more Americans into the workforce, several studies have since suggested the early cutoffs hurt local economies and did little to accelerate hiring.

The cancelation will also come while claims remain historically elevated. Weekly counts are still well above the pre-pandemic average of 200,000, and continuing claims need to fall by another million before meeting the pre-crisis norm.

In other labor-market news, hiring in the country’s private sector badly missed expectations in August. Private payrolls rose by 374,000 last month, ADP said in its monthly employment report. While the print marks a small uptick from July payroll growth, it fell well short of the 613,000-payroll forecast.

Hiring was likely dented by the surge in Delta cases and reinstatement of some mask-wearing rules. Daily case counts ended August at the highest point since January, when the virus’s winter resurgence was in full swing. The rebound in cases also cut into Americans’ hopes for the recovery, which likely slowed the recovery further.

“The Delta variant of COVID-19 appears to have dented the job market recovery,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said in the ADP report. “Job growth remains inextricably tied to the path of the pandemic.”

Still, forecasts for the government’s nonfarm payrolls report remain promising. Economists expect the Friday jobs data to show 750,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to slide to 5.2% from 5.4%. July’s jobs report trounced forecasts after ADP’s missed expectations, leaving a positive surprise in the cards for Friday morning.