Another drop in weekly unemployment insurance claims, nationally and in Washington.

The U.S. Department of Labor announces another drop in unemployment insurance claims last week.

In the week ending October 16, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 290,000, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 293,000 to 296,000. The 4-week moving average was 319,750, a decrease of 15,250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 750 from 334,250 to 335,000.

In The Seattle Times, Paul Roberts reports that claims in our state similarly declined. 

New unemployment claims in Washington dropped last week amid a broad national decline in jobless claims.

Washingtonians filed 4,784 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits last week, a nearly 8% decrease from the prior week, according to data posted Thursday by the state Employment Security Department. 

New claims in Washington fell even faster than they did nationally: Across the U.S., initial claims declined 2.1% last week, to 290,000, the fewest since the pandemic started last year, the Labor Department reported Thursday.  

CNBC explains that one cause for the decline is the termination of extended benefits.

Weekly jobless claims hit another pandemic-era low last week as the elimination of enhanced benefits sent fewer people to the unemployment line.

It’s not unalloyed good news, as the pandemic has shaken up some standard thinking.

U.S. companies are suffering through a stifling labor shortage that saw a record 4.3 million workers leave their jobs in August. In normal times, an elevated level of quits is often seen as a sign of worker confidence. However, in the current situation they are seen as more evidence of a dearth of workers that is making it difficult for the economy to stage a full recovery.

In its most recent survey of national economic conditions, the Federal Reserve found employment growth “dampened by a low supply of workers.” The Fed’s “Beige Book” report further said retail, hospitality and manufacturing firms had to cut hours or production because of a lack of workers.

Companies also reported “higher turnover, as workers left for other jobs or retired,” while Covid-related factors such as child care and health fears also contributed to problems. The report further noted that business owners are increasing wages, benefits and bonuses as they struggle to attract and retain workers.

Job opportunities are there, as are the incentives to return to work. Still, too many workers remain sidelined.