Layoffs continue five months into the pandemic, but there is a silver lining. Unemployment claims dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since March. There were 963,000 new filings for state unemployment benefits in the week ending Aug. 8—a drop of 228,000 claims from the previous week, reports the Wall Street Journal. This remains well above the pre-pandemic weekly record of 695,000, set in 1982. Still, economists had expected 1.1 million initial claims, per Bloomberg. Continuing claims fell to the lowest number since early April: 15.5 million in the week ending Aug. 1, well above the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million set in 2009 but down from 16.1 million in the previous week. Economists again expected more, around 15.8 million.
People may be less inclined to file for benefits now that the weekly $600 in supplemental federal benefits has expired, per Bloomberg. "Employment gains have yet to restore half of the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic," per the Journal. The New York Times notes that most new job losses are "likely to be permanent." States reported an additional 488,622 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federal program providing benefits to those who don't qualify for a state program, in the week ended Aug. 8, per the AP. Including that figure, which is not adjusted for seasonal trends, some 28.2 million people are receiving unemployment benefits. That count, which could reflect overcounts by states, is the lowest in three months, per Bloomberg. (Read more unemployment stories.)