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Jobless claims: Another 269,000 individuals filed new claims last week, reaching fresh pandemic-era low

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New weekly jobless claims came in at yet another pandemic-era low, with more progress being made in the labor market as new virus infections fall and companies compete for workers. 

The Labor Department released its jobless claims report Thursday morning. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended October 30: 269,000 vs. 275,000 expected and a revised 283,000 during prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended October 23: 2.105. million vs. 2.147 million expected and a revised 2.239 million during prior week 

New jobless claims came in below the psychologically important 300,000 mark for a fourth straight week, and reached the lowest level since March 2020. This represented a significant improvement from last year, when new claims were coming in at a weekly pace of more than 700,000 throughout October 2020. But new weekly filings have yet to break back to pre-virus levels, since new claims were coming in at a weekly rate of just over 200,000 throughout 2019.

The total number of claimants across all programs also dipped further, reaching 2.67 million for the week ended Oct. 16, or the latest date for which data is available. This metric, which captures those claiming both regular state continuing claims and benefits from programs, has fallen sharply since early September, when federal pandemic-era enhanced unemployment benefits expired at the national level. In the same week last year, total claimants across all programs were at over 22 million.

Other data on the labor market has also been moving in an improving direction recently. On Wednesday, ADP reported that private employers added back 571,000 payrolls in October, or the most since June. And Friday's government-issued jobs report from the Labor Department is expected to show a pick-up in hiring, with 450,000 positions expected to have come back after a disappointing 194,000 in September. 

But even given the past months of jobs growth, the labor market has yet to return fully to pre-pandemic conditions. Labor supply shortages continue to weigh on companies across industries, and workers have been quitting their jobs in record droves. As of September, the civilian labor force was still down by about 3.1 million individuals from pre-virus levels.

"We're still some ways away from full employment. We should not believe that the current environment is actually the new normal," Gregory Daco, Oxford Economics chief U.S. economist, told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. "We went through a summer lull, where there was a rise in Delta infections, which led to renewed virus fear and renewed care for sick people. We know that was a big constraint on labor supply."

"We continue to see numerous supply constraints, both on the capital and on the labor front. And we expect that as we move towards the end of the year, we are going to see an improving health situation, as well as an improvement on the supply side that should help release some of the labor supply and help generate stronger employment growth." 

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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