Jobless claims: Another 547,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims, marking a fresh pandemic-era low

Emily McCormick
·3 min read

New weekly jobless claims unexpectedly plunged to a new pandemic-era low. 

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

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended April 17: 547,000 vs. 610,000 expected and a revised 586,000 during the prior week 

  • Continuing claims, week ended April 3: 3.674 million vs. 3.650 million expected and a revised 3.708 million during the prior week

Last week's new claims came as another welcome surprise after more than a year of elevated initial filings. At 547,000, new claims broke below the Great Recession-era high of 665,000 filed in March 2009 for a second straight week. And claims have dropped precipitously from their all-time high of 6.1 million from last spring. 

"This is precisely the kind of surprise we like to see, unlike the drumbeat of negative shocks that we experienced a year ago at this time," Mark Hamrick, senior economist analyst at Bankrate, said in an email Thursday morning. "While a number of economic indicators have recently surprised in a positive way, the economy still requires substantial healing.”

But the labor market recovery has still been choppy, and the general downtrend in new jobless claims over the past several months has come with some bumps higher. Other reports have also underscored the stop-and-start nature of the rebound, with the Federal Reserve's latest Beige Book last week noting that many regions continued to experience labor shortages as well as hiring challenges over the past several weeks. 

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And even within the jobless claims report, some metrics have remained stubbornly elevated and pointed to persistently high levels of unemployment. More than 17 million Americans were still receiving unemployment benefits across all programs as of early April, for a slight increase from the previous week. That included more than 12.5 million Americans on the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which each expire in September. 

"The issue for the labor market, in our view, is at least partly related to ongoing health risks," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, said in a note. "Even as states are lifting restrictions and the pace of vaccinations is picking up, workers are still likely hesitant to return to work, especially in contact-intensive industries." 

"Overall, the labor market will see a significant rebound going forward," she added. "However, there are a lot of moving parts that will play a role in how sustainable and complete the recovery will be." 

State-by-state unemployment 

Declines in new jobless claims were broad-based, with the majority of states reporting improvements in their levels of new filings last week. 

Texas led the nation in posting the largest drop in new claims on an unadjusted basis, with these falling by about 23,400 over last week to bring the state's total to 43,200. New York followed with a drop of 17,300 to bring the state total to 41,000, and both Florida and Georgia saw drops of more than 8,000 new claims.

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Some other states, however, continued to post insured unemployment rates that were well above the national average.

For the week ended April 3, the tourism-heavy state of Nevada posted an insured unemployment rate of 5.6%, for an increase of 0.4 percentage points from the previous week. The insured unemployment rate tracks the number of individuals receiving unemployment insurance as a percentage of the labor force. Connecticut's insured unemployment rate also ticked up to 5.2%, and Alaska's rose to 5.1% for the third highest in the nation. The national insured unemployment rate was 2.8% for the same period.

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

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