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First Cut: At 202,000 level in March 30 week, initial jobless claims match low of December 6, 1969

If the Challenger layoff intentions report suggests that businesses’ job cut actions are on the rise, the data for initial jobless claims points to exceptionally low levels of filings for benefits. New claims fell 10,000 in the March 30 week to 202,000, matching the 202,000 in the week of December 6, 1969.

Of course Challenger reports layoff intentions. These are not necessarily plans to immediately cut workers; often these are planned over a period of months or even years. Sometimes it indicates that currently open spots will not be filled and/or that workers will be offered severance to leave or retire voluntarily.

At present the government data point to a still vigorous job market. The number of continuing claims declined 38,000 to 1.717 million in the March 23 week, its lowest since 1.707 million in the January 12 week before the increases associated with the partial federal government shutdown. The insured rate of unemployment remained at 1.2% for a 48th straight week (1.200% unrounded after 1.227% in prior week).

The late timing of the Easter and Passover observances (April 20-21 weekend versus three weeks earlier last year)  may have played a part in reducing the number of layoffs. Even so, conditions for the labor market are tight.

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