The numbers: U.S. unemployment claims sank by 193,000 in early April to a fresh pandemic low, an unusually large decline that likely reflects both an improving economy but also ongoing problems in processing applications for jobless benefits.
Initial jobless claims filed traditionally through the states declined to a seasonally adjusted 576,000 from 769,000 in the prior week, the government said Thursday.
The number of new claims fell below 600,000 for the first time since the pandemic began 13 months ago and touched a new low. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast new claims would total 710,000 in the seven days ended April 10.
Another 131,975 applications for benefits were filed through a temporary federal-relief program. That’s also a pandemic low.
Adding up new state and federal applications, the government last week received 744,894 applications for unemployment claims, based on actual or unadjusted figures. That’s another pandemic low.
Combined claims fell below 1 million in late March for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
Layoffs are still very high, however. Before the pandemic, new claims were running in the low 200,000s and they had never risen by more than 695,000 in any one week.
Note to readers: A government review found the number of distinct individuals collecting benefitshas been inflated by fraud and double counting. Widespread fraud has also resulted in at least $63 billion in improper payments, a Labor Department review estimated.
The big picture: Hiring soared in March and job openings have also surged close to record highs in a sign that many companies are looking to add workers as the economy reopens and government restrictions are relaxed.
If these trends continue — it all depends on the coronavirus—the level of new claims should fall sharply in the spring and summer. More people returning to work would give an already revved up U.S. economy an extra boost.