July 26, 2021

U.S. Jobless Claims Hit Lowest Level Since 1969.

WASHINGTON—The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since December 1969, offering fresh evidence of health in the labor market.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., declined by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 in the week ended Feb. 24, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was the lowest reading for initial claims since the week ended Dec. 6, 1969.

“Claims remain historically low—indeed, they are still falling—consistent with the trend in employment growth remaining more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note to clients.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 225,000 new claims last week.

Jobless claims are volatile from week to week, especially around holidays when seasonal adjustments can be tricky; Presidents Day was last week. The Labor Department also said Thursday that claims-taking procedures in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands “have still not returned to normal.”

Still, the broader trend looks upbeat as well. The four-week moving average for initial claims, a more-stable measure, fell last week by 5,000 to 220,500, reaching its lowest level since Dec. 27, 1969.

Jobless Claims Keep Falling. Initial claims for unemployment benefits have hit their lowest level since December 1969.

Unemployment claims have remained historically low for years, a sign of health in the U.S. job market. They have now hovered below 300,000 for 156 straight weeks, the longest stretch since a 161-week run that ended in April 1970—when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.Employers have continued to add jobs as well as hold on to the workers they already have. The U.S. unemployment rate in January was 4.1%, holding at its lowest level since December 2000. Economic growth has been healthy in recent quarters, supported by buoyant consumer and business confidence. Many forecasters expect continued solid growth this year, bolstered by recent tax cuts.

”Strong job gains in recent years have led to widespread reductions in unemployment across the income spectrum and for all major demographic groups,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week in testimony before Congress.

The number of claims made by workers longer than a week increased by 57,000 to 1.931 million in the week ended Feb. 17. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

Write to Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

Source: Wall Street Journal