The Labor Department said Thursday that 340,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Aug. 28, down 14,000 from the prior week. The reading was the lowest since March 14, 2020.
Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting 345,000 first-time filings.
Continuing claims for the week ended Aug. 21, meanwhile, declined to a pandemic low of 2.748 million from a downwardly revised 2.908 million the week prior. Analysts were expecting 2.775 million filings.
Almost 12.2 million people received some form of unemployment assistance, an increase of more than 178,500 from the previous week. That was less than half of the 29.7 million that filed a year earlier but well above the 2 million in each week prior to the pandemic.
"After a series of negative surprises with economic data, new pandemic era lows for both new and continuing jobless claims are welcomed developments," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.
The decline in filings comes as the $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits is set to expire on Sept. 5. About half of the states ended the additional payments early.
Thursday's report sets the stage for Friday's August nonfarm payroll report. Economists expect the U.S. economy added 720,000 jobs last month as the unemployment rate dipped to 5.2%. In July, 943,000 jobs were added as the unemployment rate fell to 5.4%.