WASHINGTON – Initial jobless claims in the United States dropped to 473,000, a new low since the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the labor market early last year, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
In the week ending May 8, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased by 34,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 507,000, according to a report released by the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000, the report noted. The four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 28,250 to 534,000.
The latest report also showed that the number of people continuing to collect regular state unemployment benefits in the week ending May 1 decreased by 45,000 to reach 3.655 million.
Meanwhile, the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs — state and federal combined — for the week ending April 24 increased by 696,152 to 16.855 million, as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the pandemic.
Several Republican-led states have announced they will exit the federal unemployment programs as early as June, a few months before the expiration in September. The federal aid includes an extra 300 dollars weekly unemployment benefits on top of state benefits. Governors in these states, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that such supplemental benefits from the federal government keep people from returning to work, leading to worker shortages.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, however, refuted these arguments. At a recent White House press briefing, she said caregiving responsibilities and absence of childcare, as well as concerns about the pandemic and the health consequences, are still important reasons why some people are unable to return to work.