The numbers: Jobless benefit claims fell to 574,000 last week from a revised 586,000 a week earlier, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. It is the second straight week with a significant drop in claims, which are now at their lowest level since mid-March 2020. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had been looking for a rebound to 603,000 new claims.
Claims in the prior week were revised from the prior estimate of 576,000.
The four-week moving average for claims, which smooths out volatility, fell 27,750 to 651,000. That is also the lowest level since last March.
What happened: Declines in claims were widespread across the country and were led by sharp declines in Texas and New York.
Applications for benefits were filed last week through a temporary relief program rose by 1,598 to 133,319.
The number of people already collecting the traditional unemployment benefit declined by 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.67 million in the week ended April 10. This is also the lowest level since last March.
Workers getting extra benefits through an emergency program funded by the federal government rose by 447,704 to 5.6 million. Workers can claim these benefits until September.
Taken together 17.4 million people were collecting benefits from eight separate state and federal programs as of April 3, up from 16.9 million in the prior week.
Big picture: Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. While there has been some fraud and other distortions that skewed the numbers, economists say the indicator has been one of the best guides to how the economy has fared during the pandemic. Claims are expected to keep falling as more pandemic restrictions are relaxed.
Market reaction: Futures on stocks
perked up after the jobless claims data was released.