Jobless claims fell 75,000 to 712,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, after a recent jump as the labor-market recovery navigates a surge in coronavirus cases.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, have held in a historically high range of 700,000 to 800,000 since mid-October, more than three times their pre-pandemic average. They edged higher for two consecutive weeks in November, a possible sign that tougher virus restrictions might be affecting the labor market, but remain well below their late March peak of nearly seven million.

Weekly claims data, which policy makers and investors have relied on throughout the pandemic for timely information about the labor market, came under scrutiny this week after a government watchdog said the data were flawed. The Government Accountability Office said states have provided inconsistent data to the Labor Department and incidents of fraud have distorted the numbers.


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