First-time claims for unemployment insurance were little changed over the past week, indicating that the heightened pace of layoffs during the pandemic may have hit a plateau, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Initial filings for the week ended Nov. 13, totaled 268,000, a decline of 1,000 from a week ago and slightly higher than the Dow Jones estimate for 260,000.
The total was the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic but in close keeping with where claims have been over the past month.
The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly volatility, declined to 272,750, just a bit above the total for the most weekly count.
Continuing claims, which run a week behind the headline number, declined by 129,000 to 2.08 million, also a pandemic-era low dating back to March 14, 2020.
Though the totals for regular and continuing claims showed declines, trailing numbers for those receiving benefits under all programs increased sharply for data through Oct. 30. That total rose by 618,804 to 3.185 million.
Special pandemic-related emergency programs ended in most places in September, but the total for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in particular soared from the Oct. 23 to Oct. 30, rising 537,467.
The Labor Department did not provide an explanation for the big surge in pandemic-related filings.
A separate report Thursday brought some strong news for manufacturing and more signs of inflation.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s gauge of monthly activity in the sector jumped 15 points to 39, representing the percentage differential between companies reporting expansion and contraction. That was well above the Dow Jones estimate for 23, propelled by increases in employment and prices paid and received.