For the second week in a row, the number of Americans who sought unemployment benefits last week dropped to its lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States.
According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Oct. 24 hit 751,000 — a decrease of 40,000 from the previous week‘s upwardly revised level. It represented the ninth consecutive week that applications remained below the one-million mark. Economists forecasted there would be 778,000 filings last week.
The data also showed that continuing claims, which paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by one week, fell by 709,000 to 7.75 million, versus the prior week’s upwardly revised 8.47 million.
Weekly applications for unemployment have dropped significantly since peaking at 6.9 million in late March, when millions of people were furloughed or laid off as government-imposed lockdowns forced the closures of nonessential businesses like stores, restaurants and other services.
The report also coincided with the release of U.S. economic data: This morning, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the gross domestic product grew at an annualized and seasonally adjusted rate of 33.1% between July and September — the fastest rate on record in the third quarter. (Prior to the pandemic, the biggest-ever quarterly rise in the GDP was a 16.7% annualized improvement in 1950.)
The GDP gains were mostly attributed to the rise in personal consumption, which makes up about two-thirds of the country’s domestic economic activity. The metric advanced at a better-than-predicted 40.7% — following a 33.2% plunge in the second quarter — and was dealt a boost by federal unemployment benefits that likely had a lingering effect on consumer spending at the beginning of the third quarter.
With Election Day less than a week away, many Americans had hoped for a new stimulus deal that would infuse financial aid into the struggling U.S. economy. However, Senate leaders left the Capitol on a break early this week, meaning it is now practically impossible for an agreement to be reached by Nov. 3. The Senate is scheduled to be back in session on Nov. 9 — a week after the election — while House members are not slated to return until Nov. 16.