US weekly unemployment claims drop to 444,000

Initial unemployment claims in the US have dropped to 444,000, a new low since the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the labour market early last year, the Labour Department reported.

In the week ending May 15, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased by 34,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 478,000, according to a report released on Thursday by the Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics.

This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000, Xinhua news agency quoted the report as saying.

The four-week moving average, a method to iron out data volatility, decreased by 30,500 to 504,750.

The latest report also showed that the number of people continuing to collect regular state unemployment benefits in the week ending May 8 increased by 111,000 to reach 3.75 million.

Meanwhile, the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs, state and federal combined, for the week ending May 1 decreased by 886,568 to dip below 16 million, as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the pandemic.

At least 21 Republican-led states have announced they will exit the federal unemployment programs as early as June, a few months before the expiration in September.

The federal aid includes an extra $300 weekly unemployment benefits on top of state benefits.

Governors in these states, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce, argued that such supplemental benefits from the federal government keep people from returning to work, leading to worker shortages.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, however, refuted these arguments, saying that caregiving responsibilities concerns about the pandemic are still important reasons why some people are unable to return to work.