It's a strange new world when a million-plus first-time jobless benefits filed in a week is viewed as a positive turn of events.
But that's what happened on Thursday, when the government reported that first-time benefit claims came in at the slowest pace since the pandemic forced the shutdown of the U.S. economy in March.
The Labor Department said that 1.186 million Americans filed first-time jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 1, down from a revised 1.434 million claims the week earlier, as U.S. employers stepped back up their efforts to reopen and rehire, despite renewed virus flare-ups in various states and cities.
Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting 1.3 million claims up to last Saturday.
Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 16.107 million for the week ended July 25 - also the lowest since the pandemic struck U.S. shores. The continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market.
The better-than-expected numbers have raised expectations that the the labor market may slowly be turning the corner after suffering its worst rout in generations.
The Labor Department will release its broadest picture of July employment on Friday. Economists surveyed by FactSet are forecasting 1.5 million jobs were added last month and that the unemployment rate fell to 10.6% from 11.1% in June.