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Jobless claims fall below 300,000 for the first time since the pandemic began

Initial jobless claims fell below 300,000 for the first time since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.

In another sign that the jobs market is getting closer to its old self, first-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 293,000, the best level since March 14, 2020, which saw 256,000 claims just as the Covid-19 spread intensified.

The Dow Jones estimate for claims was 318,000. Last week’s total represented a decline of 36,000 from the previous week.

The four-week moving average, which helps smooth out weekly volatility, dropped to 334,250, a 10,5000 decline that also marked the lowest number since March 14, 2020.

Also, continuing claims, which run a week behind the headline number, declined by 134,000 to 2.59 million, another pandemic-era low.

A separate economic release Thursday showed that prices for final-demand wholesale goods increased 0.5% in September, slightly below the 0.6% Dow Jones estimate for the producer price index.

However, on a 12-month basis, the index increased 8.6%, a fresh record for a data series that goes back to November 2010 and reflective of the current inflationary climate, according to the Labor Department.

Excluding food and energy, the core PPI rose just 0.1% vs. the 0.5% forecast, putting the 12-month gain at 5.9%, the highest level since March 1982.

Jobless claims fell as enhanced unemployment benefits associated with the pandemic began to fade. The rolls of those getting benefits under all programs declined by more than half a million to 3.65 million, according to data through Sept. 25.

Most of the decline came from those leaving two pandemic-related federal programs as well as other extended benefits. A year ago, the total receiving benefits was close to 25 million.

This is breaking news. Please check back here for updates.

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