For the third straight week, fewer Americans made new applications for jobless benefits, the government said on Thursday, bolstering the case that the world's largest economy is seeing a sustained jobs recovery.
New filings for regular unemployment aid fell to 553,000, seasonally adjusted, in the week ended April 24, a new low since the pandemic first caused mass layoffs in March 2020 and 13,000 less than the week prior, the Labor Department reported.
Another 121,749 people, not seasonally adjusted, filed under a special program for freelance and gig workers who are not eligible for regular benefits, about 12,000 less than the week before, according to the weekly data.
"The continuing decline shows an improving labor market as the economy moves towards a full reopening," Daniel Zhao of job search website Glassdoor said on Twitter.
After soaring into the millions in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic and remaining in the high hundreds of thousands for the rest of 2020, the past three weeks have a brought marked declines in new applications, indicating vaccination campaigns and government stimulus are allowing businesses to return to normal and rehire workers.
The previous week's level was revised upwards by 19,000, meaning the drop in the latest week's data is less than it appears, but Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics said the labor market is on the mend.
"Claims, which are down 189,000 since the start of April, are on a clear downward path. However, a broad and inclusive recovery in the labor market will be a gradual process," she said.
Despite the improvement, joblessness remains widespread, and more than 16.5 million people were receiving government unemployment aid under all programs as of the week ended April 10, though that was a drop of more than 845,000 from the previous week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims fell to its lowest level since March 14, 2020, as the pandemic began.
In addition to Covid-19 vaccines that became widespread in early 2021, the US government spent trillions of dollars on stimulus measures to aid the unemployed and businesses, the latest of which was the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed last month.