New applications for US unemployment benefits plunged last week to their lowest level in 52 years, a sign of further progress in the labour market’s uneven recovery from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic.
State unemployment offices received 184,000 initial jobless claims on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ending December 4, the lowest level since September 6 1969, the US labour department said on Thursday.
That was a decrease of 43,000 from the previous week, according to the government agency, and below the 215,000 that had been expected in a Refinitiv poll of economists. Economists have cautioned that claims data are subject to seasonal fluctuations over the holiday period that can distort weekly readings.
Claims fell the most in Virginia and North Carolina, according to preliminary figures that are not seasonally adjusted, while they picked up in some of the largest states, including California, Texas and New York.
There were 1.99m Americans actively collecting benefits as of November 27, up slightly from the 1.95m continuing claims recorded a week earlier.
Dismissals have slowed as employers compete to hire and retain staff, with Americans quitting their jobs at historically high levels as they seek better work opportunities or turn to self-employment.
Still, the latest data indicate the US labour market is tightening, setting the stage for the Federal Reserve to step up the taper of its monetary stimulus and giving policymakers more flexibility over raising rates.