Weekly jobless claims maintain above 400,000 for second straight week

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Initial unemployment insurance claims remained high last week as employers struggled to fill a record number of job vacancies.

Initial filings totaled 411,000 for the week ended June 19, a slight decrease from the previous total of 418,000 but worse than the Dow Jones estimate of 380,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

A separate report from the Census Bureau showed that orders for high volume durable goods rose 2.3% in May, slightly below the 2.6% estimate, but still the largest increase since July.

The final GDP growth count for the first quarter was also 6.4%, unchanged from the last estimate and in line with projections.

The most important stock market indices rose slightly after the reports.

“Claims are loud and the weekly seasonal adjustments are unreliable. We expect new lows for initial claims in July; there is no point letting go now as the economy recovers,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Employment has been the focus of policymakers and the latest data shows that the sharp drop in claims has flattened since the spring.

That comes in the midst of a record 9.3 million job vacancies, just below the 9.6 million or so American workers who are still considered unemployed. Last week’s total number of jobless claims was the second straight week that levels stayed above 400,000 after falling briefly below in late May.

As things stand, the amount of initial applications is about twice as high as before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The good news on the job front is that ongoing claims are down, down to 3.39 million, down from 144,000. That number is a week behind the headline totals.

The total number of beneficiaries across all programs remained low at 14.84 million as of June 5.

Pennsylvania recorded the largest increase in claims at 14,523, while Illinois (-3,605) and California (-3,300) recorded significant declines.

In other business news, the 2.3% increase in durable goods orders meant an increase from a 0.8% decrease in April, the only decrease in the last 13 months.

Excluding transportation, orders only increased 0.3%, while the total increased 1.7% without a decrease in defense orders. Shipments, missed orders and inventory accelerated, while new orders for non-defense capital goods increased 2.7%.

In the GDP report, the final estimate of 6.4% was unchanged as higher revisions in investments and exports were offset by an upward revision in imports.

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