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Jobless Claims Fall to 684,000, Better Than Expected

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New weekly jobless claims fell to 684,000 for the week that ended March 20, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Econoday had forecast a milder decline to 730,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 11,000 from 770,000 to

This was the first weekly report below the historical high of 695,000, hit in October of 1982, since the pandemic struck.

Jobless claims can be volatile week to week so economists like to look at the four-week average. This fell to 736,000, a decline from the upwardly revised average of 749,0000 for the prior week.

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Continuing claims, which get reported with a week’s lag, fell 264,000 to 3,870,000 for the week ended March 13.

Including new programs for gig workers and small business owners, the total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending March 6 was 18,952,795, an increase of 733,862 from the previous week.

Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27, more than ten times the previous record. Through spring and early summer, each subsequent week had seen claims decline. But in late July, the labor market appeared to stall and claims hovered around one million throughout August, a level so high it was never recorded before the pandemic struck. Claims moved down again in September and had made slow, if steady, progress until the election and the resurgence of Covid-19 infections, when they rose again. In the last few weeks, however, claims have once again been moving steadily downward.

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