The labor market tightened further last week, with initial jobless claims falling to their lowest level in more than 53 years, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Initial filings for unemployment dropped to 166,000, well below the Dow Jones estimate of 200,000 and 5,000 under the previous week’s total, which was revised sharply lower. The department noted that it revised claims from 2017 to 2021 and changed the seasonal factors it is using to calculate the numbers.
Last week’s total was the lowest since November 1968.
The numbers nevertheless reflect a jobs market that is subject to a severe worker shortage. There are about 5 million more employment openings than there are available workers, a situation that has driven up wages and contributed to spiraling inflation.
Federal Reserve officials are raising interest rates to try to constrict outsized demand that comes amid ongoing struggles in supply chains.
Despite the economy’s various obstacles, hiring has remained brisk, with nonfarm payrolls climbing by nearly 1.7 million in the first quarter of 2022.
Continuing claims, however, rose, totaling 1.52 million, according to data that runs a week behind the headline number.
The total of those receiving benefits under all programs declined to 1.72 million. The number was 18.4 million a year ago, when the government was providing enhanced support to workers displaced by Covid. The pandemic’s renewed spread over the winter showed little impact on the overall jobs numbers.
Correction: Jobless claims totaled 166,000 for the week ended April 2. An earlier version misstated the number.