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New Jobless Claims Drop To 400K, Lowest Level Since Pre-Pandemic

The U.S. Labor Department had more good news on the economic front, as the (seasonally adjusted) number of people filing for unemployment dropped to 444,000 last week (ending May 15). That’s a decrease of 34,000 from the (revised) number of workers filing a claim the previous week. It’s also the lowest level of claims since March 14, 2020, when it was 256,000 — just before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.

However, despite the drop in filings for unemployment, weekly claims are still more than double their average of 218,000 in 2019 ahead of the pandemic.

The latest labor department report added that during the week ending May 1, extended benefits were available in 15 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and the Virgin Islands. Benefits are typically extended during times of high unemployment.

The labor department releases a weekly report on jobless filings. Unemployment claims themselves are handled by the states themselves, making for a wide variety of different payouts across the country. For example, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (May 20) that three-quarters of Republican-led states plan to end extended jobless benefits that have been providing an extra $300 per week.

At least 21 states are turning down access to federal benefits early, including the $300 supplemental benefit program and the pandemic-inspired benefits going to gig workers who are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits. However, most states plan to continue using these programs.

In its monthly Employment Situation Summary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 266,000 in April. The leisure and hospitality sector, which was hit particularly hard by the pandemic as people stayed home, saw the number of jobs rise by 331,000. However, employment in the industry was still down by 2.8 million, or almost 17 percent, from February 2020.

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