The number of initial unemployment claims in the US fell to 881,000 last week, after staying above the 1 million mark for two consecutive weeks, indicating improvement in a labour market ravaged by the Covid-19 crisis.
In the week ending August 29, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased by 130,000 from a revised level of 1 million, Xinhua news agency quoted the Labour Department as saying in a report released on Thursday, making it the second time in the past 24 weeks that the figure fell below 1 million.
The four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 77,500 to reach 991,750.
As Covid-19 shutdowns rippled through the workforce, initial jobless claims spiked by 3 million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, and then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28.
After that, the number had been declining for 15 weeks consecutively — though it was still at historically high levels — before the trend was reversed in the week ending July 18 amid a resurgence in the number of positive cases.
The number then fell to 963,000 in the week ending August 8, the first time it dipped below 1 million since mid-March, but the trend was reversed again in the week ending August 15, when the figure increased to above the 1 million mark.
The Labour Departmen report also showed the number of people continuing to collect state unemployment benefits declined by 1.24 million to 13.25 million in the week ending August 22.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 15, however, increased 2.2 million to 29.2 million.
There has been an alarming increase of claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which covers independent contractors and the self-employed, who are not eligible for regular state programs.
The Department report showed that the number of people claiming benefits under the PUA program totaled 13.6 million in the week ending August 15, an increase of 2.6 million from the previous week.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 9.1 per cent for the week ending August 22, a decrease of 0.8 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate, according to the report.
The uemployment claims data came a day ahead of the crucial monthly employment report by the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).
The unemployment rate dropped to 10.2 per cent in July amid reopening efforts, and is expected to plunge further in August.