Jobless filings match estimates while continuing claims tumble below 3 million

Initial claims for unemployment insurance edged lower last week, meeting Wall Street expectations, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

First-time filings for benefits dipped to 385,000 for the week ended July 31, a decline of 14,000 from the previous week as the jobs market remains essentially in a holding pattern during the economic recovery. The total hit the Dow Jones estimate exactly.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths weekly volatility, was little changed at 394,000.

Claims have circled largely in a range around the 400,000 level since mid-May, with employment rising in Covid-hit sectors such as leisure and hospitality but doing little in some other key sectors including most goods-related industries.

However, continuing claims showed a sharp dip, according to data that runs one week behind the headline weekly number.

That level plunged by 366,000 to 2.93 million, the first time continuing claims have fallen below 3 million since March 14, 2020.

The slide in continuing claims came as the total of those receiving benefits under all programs fell to just below 13 million, a reduction of 181,251, according to data through July 17 that reflected a drop in those receiving extended benefits. A year ago, that number was just shy of 32 million as enhanced unemployment benefits were directed to those displaced by widespread business lockdowns.

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