Applications for incremental federal unemployment benefits eased last week, highlighting the latest U.S. state reforms in the labor market.
In regular state programs, initial unemployment claims in the weeks ending July 31 - 1,030 totaled 385,000 in the preceding week, Labor Department data show Thursday. The figure was in line with the new estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists, which called for 383,000 median applications.
The state benefits claim was raised to 2.93 million in the week ended July 24, a fresh pandemic low.
Over the past eight months, strong business conditions and fewer dismissals have fueled the downward trend in jobless claims. While economists generally expect unemployment applications to continue to ease in the months ahead, the rapidly spreading delta variant poses a risk to the pace of recovery.
The New York City Medical Center will require documentation of vaccination for employees and customers at indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on indoor masking to include K-12 classrooms and vaccineed people who live in virus hot spots.
Unadjusted initial claims in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania saw the biggest declines last week. Roughly half of the U.S. governors have created federal unemployment benefit programs created during the pandemic before their expiry in September, arguing the supplemental aid is making it harder for businesses to fill a record number of job openings with added resources. Lawsuits in some of those states, challenging Governors' legal authority to end the aid, could restore the halted benefits until they officially expire.
Continuing claims for regular state programs decreased since November, in part reflecting people exhausting their eligibility and others finding employment.
The jobless claims data come ahead of Friday's Monthly Jobs Report by the Labor Department, which is forecast to show the U.S. labor market added 870,000 jobs in July.