Hurricane Florence pushes jobless claims down to new 49-year low

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits in mid-September fell to the lowest level since November 1969.

The numbers: The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits in mid-September fell to a fresh 49-year low, partly because of Hurricane Florence but mostly owing to a surging economy.


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Initial jobless claims, a rough proxy for layoffs, fell by 3,000 to 201,000 in the seven days ended Sept. 15. That’s below the 208,000 MarketWatch forecast and marks the lowest level since Nov. 12, 1969.

The monthly average of new claims, meanwhile, slipped by 2,250 to 205,750, the government said Thursday. That’s also a 49-year low.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits declined by 55,000 to 1.65 million. Known as “continuing” claims, they have fallen to the lowest level since 1973.



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What happened: The storm surge caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas contributed to the low level of claims last week. Applications in South Carolina fell by an unusually large number, indicating fewer people filed claims due to government office closures and lack of power.

Nonetheless, layoffs in the U.S. have been falling steadily for eight years and they soon could drop below 200,000 for the first time in 50 years.

The comparison between now and a half century ago, of course, are not entirely apt. The rules determining who’s eligible for benefits have changed over time and the nature of the U.S. labor force is much different now than it was in the late 1960s, when the size of the population was much smaller.

Yet by any measure, layoffs in the U.S. are amazing low.


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Big picture: The U.S. economy sped up in the spring, sailed through the summer and is heading into the fall with plenty of steam.

Record job openings, strong hiring, low unemployment and rising incomes are likely to keep the good times going even with the Federal Reserve poised to raise interest rates again.

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