US unemployment claims fell again last week, though filings remain historically high.

Another weekly decline in initial US unemployment insurance claims filings is evidence both of progress and of how far the economy remains from pre-pandemic conditions. The US Department of Labor reports

In the week ending January 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 779,000, a decrease of 33,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 35,000 from 847,000 to 812,000. The 4-week moving average was 848,250, a decrease of 1,250 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 18,500 from 868,000 to 849,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.2 percent for the week ending January 23, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

From the Associated Press report:

Last week’s total, the third straight, declined from 812,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It left the weekly figure at its lowest point in two months but nevertheless elevated: Before the virus erupted in the United States in March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.

And,

The decline in applications for unemployment aid over the past few weeks suggests that layoffs have eased slightly as several states have loosened restrictions on restaurants, bars and other service firms, causing these businesses to retain workers.

And the pace of new confirmed viral infections is slowing, a trend that has lowered hospitalizations across the country. Average daily reported cases have fallen 30% in the past week to about 140,000 — one-half the peak level of a month ago.

Even so, the persistence of elevated layoffs remains a cause for concern, economists say.

Progress, but still too slow.