The number of laid-off Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started in mid-March.
The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department, which cover the week ending August 8, show that 963,000 workers sought aid last week, pushing the total number since the shutdown began to nearly 56 million.
Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected 1.12 million new claims. Last week’s total was revised up by 5,000 to 1.186 million.
The figure — the lowest since March 21, just as the pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt — indicates there’s still driving power behind the job market’s recovery, despite fears that a flare-up in COVID-19 cases and a fresh round of business closures would derail its early recovery.
It marks the first time in 20 weeks that jobless claims came in below 1 million; before the pandemic, the record high was 695,000, set in 1982. The last time the number was below 1 million was March 14, when just 282,000 Americans filed for aid.
Continuing claims, the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell by 604,000 to 15.48 million.