The number of Americans filing first-time jobless claims fell to a pandemic low last week, according to the Labor Department.
Data released Thursday showed 444,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended May 15, below the 450,000 filings that analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting. The prior week’s reading was revised up by 5,000 to 478,000.
Continuing claims for the week ended May 8, meanwhile, rose to 3.751 million from last week’s downwardly revised 3.64 million. Analysts were anticipating 3.64 million filings.
The continued drop in jobless claims shows continued improvement in the labor market as more Americans get vaccinated and return to work. Still, there are 8.2 million fewer jobs than there were before the crisis began in February 2020.
The most recent jobs report showed the U.S. economy added 266,000 nonfarm jobs in April as the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 6.1%. Economists were expecting the addition of 978,000 jobs as the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%.
Elevated unemployment is occurring despite a record 8.1 million job openings as many workers remain on the sidelines, opting to collect an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits that are scheduled to remain in place through September.
However, Republican governors in at least 21 states announced the weekly subsidy will end next month amid concerns the extra payment encourages people to stay at home and not reenter the workforce.