Jobless Claims at 837,000 as Companies Continue to Cut Ranks

Jobless benefits hold steady for a fifth straight week in a sign that the summer rebound in the labor market may be beginning to fade.

The number of Americans applying for first-time jobless benefits held steady for a fifth straight week last week, a sign that the summer rebound in the labor market spurred by the reopening of businesses may be starting to fade.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 837,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits for the week ended Sept. 26, down from a revised 879,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 850,000.

The number marks the fifth consecutive week of claims below 1 million since the pandemic shut down the U.S. economy in late March. However, analysts noted this continues to reflect a change in the way the Labor Department makes its seasonal adjustments, which applied for the first time to the last jobless claims report for August.

However, it comes as blue-chip companies join the ranks of smaller businesses in pushing forward with job cuts. Goldman Sachs (GS) - Get Report on Thursday revealed plans to eliminate about 1% of its workforce, or roughly 400 positions.

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Goldman’s move follows a flurry of job-cut announcements this week from the likes of Allstate (ALL) - Get Report, Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Report, Dow Inc. (DOW) - Get Report, American Airlines  (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report and United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report that indicate the pandemic’s impact is now entering an extended phase where companies are cutting their ranks.

Jobless claims have fallen significantly from a peak of near 7 million in late March but have stagnated at just more than 800,000 in recent weeks - roughly four times the levels recorded by the Labor Department before the virus rolled across the U.S., bringing the economy to a standstill.

Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing for the first time but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 11.767 million for the week ended Sept. 19, down from a revised 12.747 million the previous week, the Labor Department said.

While U.S. private sector employers added nearly three quarters of a million new jobs in September, the economy is still out some 11.4 million positions since March.

September's nonfarm payrolls report - the last before the November presidential election - is expected to reveal that employers added a half-million fewer workers last month than they did in August.