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Jobless Claims Level Off but Remain in the Millions

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits was 1.51 million last week, a sign that claims are slowing but also that the U.S. jobs market remains bleak.

The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless benefits rang in at 1.51 million last week, lower than in previous weeks but still in the millions as U.S. employers continue to face the daunting task of reopening and re-hiring amid one of the steepest recessions in history.

The Labor Department said 1,508,000 Americans filed jobless claims for the week ended June 13, down from a revised 1,566,000 claims for the week earlier, as states continued to slowly reopen after more than two-and-a-half months of being shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic.

Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting 1.291 million claims up to last Saturday.

Continuing claims, which is the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, were 20.544 million for the week ended May 30. The continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market.

Weekly claims have been gradually falling since hitting a record peak of 6.9 million in the week ended March 28, though economists and market-watchers are now looking more closely at continuing claims.

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Others signs of economic growth have begun to emerge, including an unexpectedly strong rebound in U.S. retail spending last month, which in turn is expected to continue driving employment growth in the all-important retail sector. 

Still, with the economy now formally in recession and with a resurgence of coronavirus cases impacted pockets of the country, many businesses and firms remain cautious about rehiring, leaving millions of people out of work since the pandemic hit.

Claims specifically for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance came in at 760,526 across 46 states. That number was a significant improvement from the week ending May 16, when 35 states reported 10.741 million individuals claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

The biggest increases in initial claims for the week ending June 6 were in California (+27,202), Massachusetts (+17,512), Oklahoma (+17,149), New York (+11,873), and Maryland (+9,718), while the largest decreases were in Florida (-95,546), Texas (-17,001), Georgia (-13,909), Michigan (-11,454), and Maine (-8,034).