The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped more than expected last week but remained at historic highs as the coronavirus crisis continued.
Last week’s 730,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 79.6 million — a number equivalent to nearly half of the American workforce.
The latest filings fell from the prior week’s revised total of 841,000 and beat economists expectations for 835,000 filings, according to Thursday’s US Department of Labor report.
“Jobless claims should gradually decline in
the coming weeks due to increased growth expectations,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.
But new claims have now remained above the pre-COVID record of 695,000 for 49 consecutive weeks — a sign that the job market is struggling to bounce back as the global pandemic approaches its first anniversary.
Economists said last week’s filings may have been affected by the massive winter storm that walloped Texas and other southern states last week.
The latest data came a week ahead of the feds’ monthly job report for February. It’s expected to show the US economy adding 100,000 jobs this month, up from January’s gain of 49,000, according to Wrightson ICAP.