Jobless claims fall below 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic began

Initial jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the first time since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.

In another sign that the job market is approaching its old self, claims for the first time for unemployment insurance totaled 293,000, the best level since March 14, 2020, which recorded 256,000 claims just as the spread of unemployment intensified. Covid-19.

The Dow Jones claim estimate was 318,000. Last week’s total represented a 36,000 decrease from the previous week.

The four-week moving average, which helps smooth out weekly volatility, fell to 334,250, a decline from 10,500 that also marked the lowest number since March 14, 2020.

Additionally, ongoing claims, which are a week behind the title number, fell by 134,000 to 2.59 million, another pandemic-era low.

A separate economic release on Thursday showed that prices for final demand wholesale goods rose 0.5% in September, slightly below the 0.6% estimated by Dow Jones for the producer price index.

However, on a 12-month basis, the index rose 8.6%, a new record for a data series dating back to November 2010 and reflecting the current inflationary climate, according to the Labor Department.

Excluding food and energy, the basic PPI was up just 0.1% from the expected 0.5%, putting the 12-month gain at 5.9%, the highest level since March 1982 .

Jobless claims declined as the improved unemployment benefits associated with the pandemic began to fade. The list of those who receive benefits in all programs was reduced by more than half a million to 3.65 million, according to data as of Sept. 25.

Most of the decline came from those who dropped out of two pandemic-related federal programs, as well as other extended benefits. A year ago, the total benefits received were close to 25 million.

The drop in claims comes at an important time for the labor market, which has added jobs in the last two months at a decidedly slower rate than expected: 366,000 in August and 194,000 in September, leaving the total of domestic jobs even more than 5 million shy. from where it was pre-pandemic.

Thursday’s jobless claims report covered the period just before the week of the Labor Department’s survey for the closely-followed non-farm payroll report.

Federal Reserve officials have been closely watching the progress of the labor market as the central bank weighs when to start withdrawing the extraordinary help it has been providing. Minutes released Wednesday of the Fed’s September meeting indicated that the first pullback could begin in mid-November with a reduction in the number of bonds it buys each month.

A big concern now for the Fed is rising inflation, and Thursday’s data showed continued but concentrated pressures.

Final demand energy prices advanced 2.8% in September, driven by a 3.9% increase in gasoline. Most of the overall price increases came from final demand goods, which increased by 1.3%, compared to an increase of just 0.2% in services.

More than two-thirds of the service gain came from an 11.6% increase in fuel and lubricant retail margins. By contrast, prices for airline passenger services fell 16.9%.

Final demand food prices increased 2%, which included a 21.2% increase in the price of eggs for fresh use and a 19.4% increase in fresh and dried vegetables.

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