Unemployment claims last week totaled 199,000 after adjusting for seasonal fluctuations, the lowest level since November 15, 1969.
Claims for benefits soared into millions in March 2020 as the pandemic shut down the U.S. economy. Over the next 20 months, claims declined more or less continuously. They peaked at 6.15 million in the week of April 4, 2020.
It wasn’t until last week that claims finally fell below their pre-pandemic levels of around 200,000.
The struggle to find staff has been a key feature of the pandemic economy. The demand for labor is high, but the participation rate has fallen.
That said, the dramatic drop in claims last week likely overstates how good things are in the job market right now, said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.
“While the drop in UI claims was certainly welcome, it does not indicate a dramatic turnaround in the job market. Claims are very volatile, especially around vacations,” he said. in a note to customers.
Without the seasonal adjustments, however, claims actually rose to 258,622 last week, more than 18,000 more than the week before.
Continuing unemployment claims, which include workers who have applied for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at around 2 million in the week ended November 13, down 60,000 from the previous week .
Overall, 2.4 million Americans received government benefits under various programs during the week ended November 6, up from 3.2 million at the end of October.