Initial jobless claims fell last week and were in line with Wall Street’s expectations, while signs of longer-term unemployment showed improvement, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.
First-time claims for benefits fell to 385,000 in the week ended July 31, a decrease of 14,000 from the previous week as the labor market essentially remains on hold during the economic recovery. The sum hit the Dow Jones estimate exactly.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out the weekly volatility, remained little changed at 394,000.
Demands have been largely hovering around the 400,000 mark since mid-May, with employment increasing in Covid-affected sectors such as leisure and hospitality, but little change in a few other key sectors, including most goods-related industries.
The ongoing claims, however, showed a sharp decline, according to data a week behind the weekly headline.
That level fell 366,000 to 2.93 million, the first time since March 14, 2020 that ongoing claims have fallen below 3 million.
The decline in ongoing entitlements came as the total number of beneficiaries across all programs fell to just under 13 million, a decrease of 181,251, according to data through July 17 that reflected a decrease in beneficiaries. It was just under 32 million a year ago as improved unemployment benefits were directed to those displaced by widespread business freezes.
The claims figures come a day before the closely watched July report on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ non-farm payrolls.
While the Dow Jones estimate for the month is 845,000, a report from payroll firm ADP on Wednesday showing just 330,000 more private payroll jobs could signal disappointment for July.
The spreading Covid-19 Delta variant has led to restrictions being reintroduced in some areas, but these were mainly limited to mask mandates. The number of jobless claims in the last week will not be included in the number of non-agricultural payrolls.
In other economic news, the U.S. trade deficit rose 6.7% on Thursday to $ 75.7 billion, the largest since data dating back to 1992.
A $ 1.2 billion increase in exports was more than offset by a $ 6 billion increase in imports, the Department of Commerce reported. The totals increased the year-to-date imbalance to $ 135.8 billion, an increase of 46.4% over the same period last year.
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