The Number Of Americans Filing For New Unemployment Benefits Just Fell To A 52-Year Low


The number of Americans filing initial jobless claims last week unexpectedly fell to the lowest level in 52 years, faring much better than economists were expecting despite ongoing struggles in the labor market, which is still down about 4 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels.

Economists were expecting about 211,000 new jobless claims last week.


Key Facts

About 184,000 people filed initial jobless claims in the week ending December 4, down 43,000 from the previous week to the lowest level since September 6, 1969, according to the weekly data released Thursday.

The figure came in much better than average economist expectations calling for 211,000 new jobless claims, according to Bloomberg data.

The number of continued claims in all programs for the week ending November 20, the latest data available, also fell sharply, slipping to 1.9 million from 2.3 million one week earlier.

In an email, Bankrate analyst Mark Hamrick said the \very low\ jobless claims figure could indicate companies are becoming more cautious about letting people go given the challenges many are facing in filling open positions, pointing to near-record job openings of more than 11 million openings at last count.

Crucial Quote

\The level of new job loss is very low, healing from shocking and heartbreaking crisis levels last year,” Hamrick said. In the same week last year, a staggering 853,000 Americans filed for new jobless claims, and nearly 6 million were receiving any form of benefit. “On the other side of the equation, the number of job openings remains very high, affirming that workers are very often in the driver’s seat in seeking or retaining jobs.”

Key Background

Though waning infections helped usher in a streak of promising labor market developments this fall, a recent uptick in cases coincided with a disappointing jobs report for November, when the United States added less than half of the jobs economists expected. “Last week’s weaker-than-expected jobs report adds to the fear we’ve seen with the omicron variant, and it may stoke fears of stagflation, which consists of slower economic growth and higher inflation,” says Jay Pestrichelli, the CEO of Florida-based investment firm Zega Financial. The delta variant-spurred wave of Covid-19 infections set a cautionary precedent earlier this year, fueling struggles that culminated with the job market’s worst month of the year in September.

Big Number

4.2%. That was the unemployment rate in November, its lowest point in more than a year but still above prepandemic levels of about 3.5%.

Further Reading

U.S. Posts 11 Million Job Openings With Americans Still Quitting Their Jobs At Near-Record Rates (Forbes)

U.S. Labor Market Recovery Lost Steam In November With A Sluggish 210,000 New Jobs (Forbes)