US weekly jobless claims drop more than expected to 712,000 as nation awaits stimulus rollout

  • US jobless claims totaled 712,000 last week, a decline from the prior week’s revised 754,000 total.
  • The reading lands below the median economist estimate of 725,000 claims.
  • Continuing claims dipped to 4.1 million for the week that ended February 27.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped more than anticipated last week as virus case counts edged slightly higher and Democrats neared a final vote on new stimulus.

New jobless claims totaled an unadjusted 712,000 for the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department announced Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 725,000 filings. The reading lands below the previous week’s revised total of 754,000 and marks a third decline in the last four weeks.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 4.1 million for the week that ended February 27. That came in below the median economist estimate of 4.2 million.

Weekly readings continue to exceed the high of 665,000 claims seen during the worst week of the global financial crisis. More than 81 million filings have been made since the coronavirus froze the US economy in March 2020. That trounces the 37 million claims filed during the previous recession.

 

The claims report is the first to follow the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ blowout February jobs report. The US added 379,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, according to data published Friday. Economists projected a 200,000-payroll increase. The unemployment rate also dipped to 6.2%, just below the 6.3% estimate.

The government report marked a second straight month of job gains after December’s sharp decline. The stronger-than-expected growth signals the labor market is once again rebounding as the country nears more widespread reopening.

Still, data detailing the coronavirus’ spread has wavered in the past week. After tumbling through February, daily case counts have slowed their rate of decline at still-elevated levels. An improving rate of vaccination should pull daily new cases even lower, but the country remains months away from reaching herd immunity, according to Bloomberg data.

The roughly 4 million Americans still on unemployment insurance received some good news on Wednesday. House Democrats approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan in a final vote, setting the bill up for a signature from President Joe Biden on Friday. The measure allows Biden to extend a $300-per-week supplement to federal unemployment benefits through early September before the previous expansion lapses on March 14. 

The bill also includes $1,400 direct payments, funding for vaccinations, and state and local government aid.

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