US initial jobless claims fall to fresh pandemic low

The US jobless rate edged a tenth of a point higher to 7.9%, but that was due to a surge of workers back into the workforce. Photo: AFP (Photo: AFP)

Applications for US state unemployment benefits fell last week to a fresh pandemic low, showing employers are having some success in retaining workers in a tight labor market.

Initial unemployment claims in regular state programs totaled 293,000 in the week ended Oct. 9, a decrease of 36,000 from the prior week, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a slight decrease to 320,000 applications.

Continuing claims for state benefits dropped to 2.6 million in the week ended Oct. 2.

Claims have marched lower as the economy recovers, boosting demand for labor to keep up with consumers. The latest surge of coronavirus cases hasn’t led to widespread layoffs as firms look to hire more workers and retain those they already have.

Still, September was the slowest month of job growth this year in the U.S. as the end of pandemic unemployment benefits and back-to-school didn’t lead to a sizable increase in hiring. That, along with lingering supply-chain issues, has led several economists to cut their forecasts for third-quarter growth, which is reported later this month.

The dearth of childcare has proved to be a major hurdle as the number of women on payrolls fell last month for the first time since December 2020.

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