The number of Americans applying for initial unemployment benefits fell to 787,000 last week, the lowest since April, but remained at levels indicating that the recovery in the labor market is struggling for momentum as the coronavirus pandemic enters its first full winter.
Economists had forecast a decline to 860,000. The prior week’s figure was revised down to 842,000 from an initially reported 898,000.
The number of continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag to initial claims, fell sharply for a second straight week to 8.373 million. The previous week’s figure was revised down to 9.397 million. Continuing claims are falling in part because many people have exhausted their eligibility for regular state benefits.
The Labor Department said that California had completed its pause in processing of initial claims and had resumed reporting new claims as part of the national total. The report reflected the count for California for the current week and revisions to the two previous weeks. Earlier this month, the state said it needed to suspend data filings in order to reduce its claims processing backlog and implement fraud prevention technology.
“The return of California to the mix with better data revised down the level of claims for previous weeks but not as much as hoped,” said Grant Thornton chief economist Diane Swonk via Twitter.
The report comes as talks in Washington over a economic stimulus deal drag on amid doubts over whether the negotiations would continue or pause until after the Nov. 3 election. The number of all people claiming unemployment-related benefits fell by just over 1 million to 23.15 million, as of October 3, the last date for which such data are available.
Grant Thornton’s Swonk noted that the number of those applying for extended unemployment benefits increased, which she said was “a sign of deeper scarring and an inability to recall more workers.”
“This is starting to look like a more traditional and longer recession, which bolsters the case for more stimulus now,” Swonk added.