The number of Americans seeking new unemployment benefits dropped below 400,000 for the first time since March of last year — marking a new pandemic low, the feds said Thursday.
Initial worker filings for jobless claims, seen as a signal of layoffs, reached 385,000 last week, down from 406,000 reported the prior week, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.
It’s the fifth consecutive week of steady declines, but initial claims still remain substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels. The country was averaging just over 200,000 new claims per week in 2019.
The downward trend of new claims is an indication of a labor market that appears to be healing, albeit slower than some economists expected earlier this year.
Still, the labor market has a ways to go before it hits pre-pandemic levels. Almost 16 million Americans were still on some form of government assistance through all unemployment programs as of early May.
Millions of those Americans could also soon see their benefits slashed, as at least 25 states are now looking to lure workers back into the labor market by withdrawing from the federal program that provides an extra $300 in additional unemployment benefits every week. That program is set to expire