By Greg Robb
The numbers: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits slipped further in the latest week and hit the lowest levels since the pandemic began in mid-March, government data released Thursday showed.
New claims fell by 40,000 to 751,000 in the seven days ended Oct. 24. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 770,000 reading. This is the fourth decline in the past five months.
Claims in the prior week were revised higher to 791,000 from 787,000.
What happened: Continuing jobless claims filed through state programs, meanwhile, sank by 709,000 to a seasonally adjusted 7.76 million in the week ended Oct 17, the government said Thursday, for a fifth straight decline.
Some unemployed workers are beginning to exhaust their state benefits and are now relying on a federal program that is offering extended compensation. This program saw claims rise to 3.6 million in the week ended Oct. 10, up from 3.3 million in the prior week.
Altogether, the number of people receiving benefits from eight separate state and federal programs fell by 415,727 to an unadjusted 22.7 million as of Oct. 10, the latest data available.
Big picture: Economists are concerned that rising coronavirus cases will lead people to stay home, and cause service industries to begin another round of layoffs. Adding to the sense of unease, Congress went home for the presidential election without passing addition coronavirus financial relief.
What are they saying? “We think initial claims are more likely to increase over the next month than to fall further,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Market reaction: U.S. equity benchmarks opened lower, in line with recent trends. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.57% was down 216 points.