Initial jobless claims fell to 684,000 for the week ending March 20, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, which is good news and represents the first time they have dropped below 700,000 in roughly one year.
There were 241,000 new claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is about in line with the week before. There are still 18.9 million people on some form of unemployment insurance. While first-time claims remain elevated, they are moving in a constructive direction.
Still, initial claims at 684,000 is roughly three times what one would have considered acceptable before the pandemic. Even with issues of fraud and other assorted challenges in state unemployment offices, it would be a mistake to dismiss claims at this level as something to ignore.
We anticipate that there will be volatility in the top-line number over the next several weeks before what will most likely be a pronounced decline around midyear as many people move back into the labor force and the economy reopens.
For more information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.