Jobless claims match 1968 low

Initial claims for jobless benefits fell to 166,000 in the week ended April 2, adjusted for seasonal swings, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was far fewer than the 200,000 or so claims that economists had predicted. It also matches the number of first-time claims from the week ended March 19, which was the lowest level since November 1968, after revisions.

The four-week average of first-time claims is now 170,000, after a series of adjustments by the DOL.

“We saw big revisions in this week’s initial and continuing claims figures due both to the usual annual revisions and a change in the seasonal adjustment procedure,” said Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics.

The Labor Department announced changes to its methodology on Thursday.

At the start of the pandemic, the department altered the way it calculated its seasonal adjustments, since the swings in the data were so massive that the old way of doing things only distorted the data further.

But now that jobless claims have fallen back to levels seen before Covid-19 hit, the department is changing its methodology back to what it was before the pandemic. That’s why there were so many adjustments in Thursday’s numbers.

“The new data reveal a steeper initial claims downtrend through [the first quarter] but a less aggressive downtrend in the continuing claims,” Englund said.

Continuing jobless claims, which count people who have filed for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 1.5 million in the week ended March 26, little changed from the prior week.

The data reflects the tight US labor market, including the millions of jobs available across the nation and an unemployment rate that just hit a new pandemic-era low of 3.6%. Two years after the economy shut down due to the first wave of the coronavirus and millions of people lost their jobs, the nation’s employment situation is now characterized by a shortage of workers.

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