Initial unemployment insurance claims edged down last week, meeting Wall Street expectations, while signs of longer-term unemployment showed improvement, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
First-time claims for benefits fell to 385,000 for the week ended July 31, down 14,000 from the previous week as the labor market remained largely in a wait-and-see configuration during the economic recovery . The total exactly matches the Dow Jones estimate.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, was little changed at 394,000.
Claims have largely hovered around the 400,000 level since mid-May, with employment increasing in sectors affected by Covid such as leisure and hospitality, but changing little in some other key sectors, including most goods-related industries.
However, continuing claims have shown a steep decline, according to data that comes a week after the weekly headline count.
That level plunged from 366,000 to 2.93 million, the first time that continuing claims have fallen below 3 million since March 14, 2020.
The decline in continuing claims came as total benefit recipients under all programs fell to just under 13 million, a reduction of 181,251, according to data up to July 17 that reflects a decline. the number of beneficiaries of extended benefits. A year ago, that number was just under 32 million as improved unemployment benefits were intended for people displaced by widespread business closures.
The claims figures come a day ahead of July’s closely watched non-farm wages by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While the Dow Jones estimate for the month is 845,000, a report released Wednesday by payroll company ADP showing just 330,000 more private sector jobs could signal a disappointment for July.
The spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 has caused some areas to reimpose restrictions, although they have mostly been limited to hiding warrants. Last week’s jobless claims figures will not appear in the count of non-farm wages.
In other economic news Thursday, the U.S. trade deficit jumped 6.7% to $ 75.7 billion, its largest on record for data dating back to 1992.
A $ 1.2 billion increase in exports was more than offset by a $ 6 billion increase in imports, the Commerce Department reported.
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