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A closeup of unemployment benefits paperwork.

Back to Work: Initial Unemployment Claims Hit Half-Century Low

Nov. 24, 2021
Just under 200,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week according to adjusted figures, the lowest number since 1969.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week than during any week since the late 60s. In the week ending November 20, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, approximately 199,000 people filed for first-time jobless benefits. That’s a drop of 71,000 from the week before, according to advance, seasonally-adjusted figures. According to Labor Department records, that’s the lowest figure for claims since the week of November 15, 1969, when 197,000 people applied.

Using unadjusted data, however, the advance number of actual initial claims rose approximately 18,187 to 258,622 new claims. Seasonal factors, the Department of Labor said, predicted roughly five times the amount of new claims.

The four-week moving average of adjusted claims fell 21,000 applications to 252,250 applications per week, reaching its own lowest level since the middle of March 2020, when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge wave of people leaving their jobs. Initial unemployment claims reached above 900,000 in January 2021 before declining to below pre-pandemic levels closer to 220,000 claims per week.

Seasonally adjusted insured unemployment also continued to drop over the long term as Americans pick up jobs in an economy hungry for talent. The advanced, adjusted rate of people receiving unemployment insurance dropped 0.1 points to 1.5% during the week of November 13, also the lowest point for that measure since March of last year. An estimated 2,049,000 people in the U.S. received unemployment checks that week.

The drop in unemployment insurance recipients and applicants comes in an economic landscape where many companies report difficulty finding workers to fill jobs. The latest available data on job openings and turnover released earlier this month showed that 10.4 million roles were unfilled in September while the number of people quitting their jobs rose that month to a record high of 4.4 million people.

According to Department of Labor, which released the report, the manufacturing industry reported 897,000 job openings in September, 485,000 hires, and 461,000 separations. The rate of job openings in manufacturing, 6.7%, was slightly lower than that of private businesses on average, which was 7.1%.

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