Weekly jobless claims hit their lowest level of the pandemic area, totaling 1.186 million last week, well below Wall Street expectations.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 1.42 million. The level for the week ended Aug. 1 represented a drop of 249,000 from the previous period.

Amid worries that the employment picture was faltering after two record-breaking months of job creation, the claims number indicates some momentum. Continuing claims, or those who have collected benefits for two straight weeks, dropped by 844,000 to 16.1 million.

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