The data shows that 376,000 people filed for first-time benefits for the week ending June 5, a decrease of 9,000 compared to the 385,000 people who filed the week prior. This marks the lowest level since March 14, 2020, when initial jobless claims were 256,000. Before the pandemic brought economic activity to a near-standstill in March 2020, weekly applications were regularly coming in below 220,000.
Meanwhile, 3.499 million Americans were receiving traditional state unemployment benefits the week of May 29, a decrease of 258,000 from 3.771 million the week before. This marks the lowest level since March 21, 2020, when continuing jobless claims were 3.09 million.
The latest Labor Department figures come just days after the agency reported that job openings hit a record 9.3 million in April. Layoffs dropped to 1.4 million, the lowest in records dating back to 2000, while 4 million quit their jobs in April, another record and a sign that they are confident enough in their prospects to try something new.
The U.S. economy added 559,000 new jobs in May, missing economist estimates of 650,000, and the unemployment rate dropped from 6.1% to 5.8% in April, the lowest since businesses shut their doors in March 2020. The United States is still short 7.6 million jobs from where it stood in February 2020.
But employers are posting vacancies faster than would-be applicants can fill them. Many Americans are contending with health and childcare issues related to COVID-19 and with career uncertainty after the coronavirus recession wiped out many jobs for good. Some are taking their time looking for work because expanded federal jobless benefits pay more than their old jobs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.