U.S. Jobless Claims Extend Decline to New Pandemic Low

Worker filings for jobless benefits fell again to a fresh pandemic low, extending a steady downward trend and adding to signs of a healing labor market and a broader, though uneven, economic recovery.

Initial unemployment claims for regular state programs, a proxy for layoffs, fell last week to 406,000 from 444,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That level represents the lowest levels of claims since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset last year and the fourth consecutive week claims have reached a new pandemic low. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast there were 425,000 new claims last week.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed orders for cars, appliances and other long-lasting, or “durable,” goods fell a seasonally adjusted 1.3% in April from March—the first monthly decline in demand for such products in a year. The decline was concentrated in the automotive sector, where a semiconductor shortage has caused disruptions, and the defense industry, which tends to be very volatile. Shipments of motor vehicles and parts fell sharply as well, while shipments of defense capital goods rose.

Low business and retail inventories have translated to increased demand for manufacturers for much of the past year, but supply-chain issues continue to constrain production and delay some shipments.

Excluding transportation, durables orders were up 1% in April and excluding defense, they were unchanged from March. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft—also known as core capital goods, a proxy for business investment—increased 2.3% in April.

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