U.S. Jobless Claims Decline, Remaining Close to 52-Year Low

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance benefits continues to hover around 200,000 per week, remaining at historically low levels. While this is a reflection of tightening labor market conditions as the economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 recession, that situation might change soon as infections from the Omicron variant have spiked since the last reporting period. In the week-ending December 25, unemployment claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 198,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 206,000 and very close to the 52-year low of 188,000 initial claims that were filed in early December. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, peaked at more than 6.1 million at the onset of the pandemic and have been gradually trending down since then. The most recent filings were lower than the 205,000 to 208,000 initial claims economists were projecting and were below the average of around 218,000 claims filed per week in 2019, prior to the pandemic. The four-week average, which smooths out changes from week to week, dropped by roughly 7,000 last week to just above 199,000, the lowest level since October 1969. Thus far during the pandemic, more than 92.5 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.