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Jobless claims hit new pandemic low as Americans return to work

Thomas Catenacci, DCNF

The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims dropped to 444,000 last week as the economy continues to slowly recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics figure released Thursday represented a decrease in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending May 8, when 478,000 new jobless claims were reported. That number was revised up from the 473,000 jobless claims initially reported last week.

Economists expected Thursday’s jobless claims number to come in at 452,000, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Thursday’s figure represented the lowest level for initial jobless claims since March 14, 2020, when the Labor Department reported 256,000 new claims, according to the report.

Roughly 16 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the report.

The U.S. economy added just 266,000 jobs in April, far below projections, according to Labor Department report released earlier this month.

Republicans argued that the federal $300 weekly unemployment bonus implemented by Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus package has incentivized out-of-work Americans not to look for jobs. Job vacancies hit a record 8.1 million at the end of March, according to a Labor Department report released last week.

More than 20 Republican-majority states including Texas, South Carolina, Arizona and Alabama have announced their withdrawal from the federal unemployment program, Business Insider reported. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the amount of unemployed people equals the number of job openings in the state.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said in a statement Monday announcing the state’s withdrawal from federal unemployment program.

Democrats said the jobs report wasn’t entirely negative, but proved the need for additional legislation and government spending. The White House argued that unemployment benefits weren’t hindering the recovery.

“I’d note that the jobs report is a little bit stronger than the headline numbers might suggest on the hiring front,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters during a White House press briefing on May 7.

Overall, the economy has added 1.5 million jobs since January, according to Department of Labor data. The economy grew 6.4% in the first quarter of 2021, another positive sign of economic recovery, the Commerce Department reported.

The consumer price index, an indicator of inflation, has also shown worrying signs. Prices increased more between May 2020 and April than any other 12-month period since 2008, the Labor Department reported.

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