New Unemployment Claims Fall Below One Million for First Time Since March

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that 963,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the first time jobless claims have fallen below 1,000,000 since March.

The drop in claims may fuel hopes that the labor market is improving after the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent mitigation efforts forced mass closures of businesses. Since March 21, about 56 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

The report on Thursday may also provide insight into whether the lowering of federal unemployment benefits has discouraged Americans from applying for them. $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, and on Saturday President Trump signed an executive order authorizing states to implement a $300 federal unemployment benefit.

“Taking [a] temporary job may be more attractive when the benefits are lower,” Julia Pollak, economist at job site ZipRecruiter, commented to the Wall Street Journal.

With the pandemic still raging, however, the economy remains unsteady.

“Seeing initial claims dip below 1 million is a positive sign that layoffs are easing, but we’re far from celebrating a steady recovery,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Fox Business. “Tens of millions of people are still collecting unemployment benefits at a level far above the worst points of the Great Recession. We’ve not yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel for millions of workers.