New filings for US unemployment benefits declined again last week, hitting their lowest level since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The 547,000 new seasonally adjusted filings reported in the week ended April 17 were better than analysts expected and 39,000 fewer than the previous week's upwardly revised figure, and came as vaccination campaigns offer hope for a return to normalcy in the world's largest economy.
Another 133,319 people, not seasonally adjusted, made new claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for freelancers and those not normally eligible for aid, only slightly more than the week prior.
The data was the second straight week that regular jobless claims declined after last week's drop of 156,000, which was the strongest indication yet that relief from the surge in unemployment caused by the pandemic may finally be here.
"This dip in jobless claims looks good in isolation but what really matters is that it confirms that last week's unexpected plunge was no fluke," Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said.
"We expect further declines over the next few months as the reopening continues, while payroll growth will accelerate markedly."
The data showed the four-week moving average of regular claims hitting its lowest point since the pandemic at 651,000.
The insured unemployment rate, indicating people actually receiving aid, was 2.6 percent for the week ended April 10, with more than 3.6 million receiving regular benefits.
Nonetheless, the report was a reminder of the widespread joblessness caused by business restrictions meant to stop coronavirus transmission, with more than 17.4 million people, not seasonally adjusted, receiving unemployment aid nationwide as of the week ended April 3.
Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics agreed that the latest data show the trend in new filings decisively heading down.
"While exposure to the virus likely remains a concern for workers, we expect to see a further decline in filings as the reopening continues and job growth accelerates over coming months," she said in a note.