After reporting a sharp pullback in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the previous week, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday unexpectedly showing a continued decline in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 17.
The report said initial jobless claims fell to 547,000, a decrease of 39,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 586,000.
The continued drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to rebound to 617,000 from the 576,000 originally reported for the previous month.
With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims slid to their lowest level since hitting 256,000 in the week ended March 14, 2020.
“While we may see some bumps along the way, initial claims appear to be on a clear downward path,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead Economist at Oxford Economics.
“However, we expect a full recovery in the labor market to be a gradual process,” she added. “While we expect another 6mn jobs to be created over the rest of 2021, employment won’t return to pre-Covid levels until mid-2022 and it will take longer to achieve full employment.”
The Labor Department said the less volatile-four week moving average also fell to a one-year low of 651,000, a decrease of 27,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 678,750.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also declined by 34,000 to 3.674 million in the week ended April.
The decrease pulled continuing claims down to their lowest level since hitting 3.094 million in the week ended March 21, 2020.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also slid to a one-year low of 3,713,000, a decrease of 41,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 3,754,750.
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