US workers file under a million jobless claims for first time since March

Some 963,000 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as initial jobless claims dipped below 1 million for the first time since mid-March, the feds said Thursday.

But last week’s filings nonetheless drove the number of unemployment claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic above 56 million.

New claims fell from 1.191 million the prior week, putting the numbers back on a downward trend after two weeks of increases in mid-July, Thursday’s US Department of Labor figures show. Continuing claims, which measure sustained unemployment on a one-week lag, also dropped to about 15.5 million in the week ending Aug. 1.

The latest batch of claims followed the July 31 expiration of a $600 boost to weekly unemployment benefits that had been a lifeline for millions of jobless Americans, which “may discourage fresh filings,” Bloomberg economists Andrew Husby and Eliza Winger said. President Trump issued an executive order last week to restore up to $400 in weekly payments, but it hasn’t been implemented.

The pandemic has kept weekly jobless claims at unprecedented levels for more than five months as states shut down large swaths of their economies to control the coronavirus’s spread. Last week’s filings were still well above the Great Recession’s peak of 665,000.

The nationwide unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent last month from its April peak of 14.7 percent as reopening efforts continued. But job growth slowed to 1.8 million from 4.8 million in June as spikes in COVID-19 cases roiled states like Florida and Texas.

“Elevated virus cases and the approaching back-to-school season are likely to further restrain labor market recovery this month,” Husby and Winger said.

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