Initial jobless claims declined another 14,000 this week to 385,000, still 17,000 above their best pandemic levels of 368,000 set on June 26 and July 10. The 4 week average of claims declined by 250 to 394,000, also 9,500 above its pandemic low set on July 11:
Significant progress in the decline of initial claims remains stalled, as it has for the last 2 months.
The story is quite different for continuing claims, which declined 366,000 to a new pandemic low of 2,930,000:
This series, which had also been near a stall, now looks to have begun a new slow declining trend on May 29, and to have accelerated this week. This may reflect the termination of special pandemic benefits in many States, the impact of $15 minimum wages and signing bonuses being offered, or other items.
From the long term perspective, this level of continuing claims is consistent with early to mid-expansions over the past 40 years (graph subtracts -2,930,000 so that current level = 0):
The decline in continuing claims is good news, provided those whose claims have ended are able to start new jobs, and not just being arbitrarily tossed to the economic wolves.
My theme for the present remains that whether claims will continue to stall, reverse, or improve from here is under the control of the Delta variant and whether new vaccinations continue to stall. My best guess is that August and September will not be good months, as Delta burns through the dry tinder.