Another 963,000 Americans filed for regular first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis — the first time in five months that number has dipped below 1 million, the Department of Labor said Thursday.
It was the lowest number of weekly initial claims since mid-March when the pandemic shut down the US economy.
For 20 straight weeks, the number of people filing for first time-unemployment consistently came in at more than 1 million, peaking at nearly 7 million at the end of March.
The numbers are still historically high. In the same week last year, just 218,000 people filed for initial benefits.
Even during the Great Recession just over a decade ago, jobless claims weren't as high as in the current crisis.
Another lesson from the Great Recession: it took nearly five years — from their peak in 2009 until 2014 — for claims to come back down to what they were before the financial crisis.
The latest numbers are a reminder that recovery from the current pandemic recession won't be an easy or quick feat.
Even though the headline number from last week is an improvement, it doesn't include the claims for pandemic unemployment assistance, a program created by Congress after COVID-19 hit. Adding those, cumulative first-time claims edge back above a million, to 1.3 million on an unadjusted basis.
That said, economists say it's encouraging that claims for unemployment are going down because it means people keep returning to work.
Continued jobless claims, which count people who have filed for unemployment benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 15.5 million on a seasonally adjusted basis. Without the adjustment, the number was 15.2 million.
Counting all state unemployment programs, 28.3 million people were claiming some form of aid in the week ending July 25.
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