Weekly unemployment claims are close to their lowest level since the Covid-19 pandemic hit more than a year ago, adding to evidence that layoffs are easing as an economic revival gathers force.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect worker filings for initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, to have fallen to 694,000 last week, from 719,000 the preceding week.
That would bring the four-week average—which smooths out volatility in the weekly figure—to its lowest point since the pandemic began, though still well above pre-pandemic levels. Weekly claims averaged around 220,000 in the year before Covid-19’s arrival.
With nearly one-quarter of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated, consumers are spending more on gyms, restaurants, hotels and other services they had shunned over the last year, setting in motion a post-pandemic spending boom. Economists are closely watching unemployment claims numbers for signs that layoffs are moderating as businesses scramble to keep up with consumers.
“The movement overall is in the right direction,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said. “As we get closer to herd immunity, as restrictions can be lifted—think about dining rooms that can go from 50% to 100% capacity and baseball stadiums that can be 100% instead of 10%–those are things that get us closer to where we were before.”