The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits decreased last week, suggesting the labour market was stabilising as authorities started to loosen Covid related restrictions on businesses.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 779,000 for the week ended 30 January, compared to 812,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said today.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 830,000 applications in the latest week.
US jobless claims remain above their 665,000 peak from during the 2007-09 recession, but well below a record 6.867 million in last March when the pandemic hit the United States' shores.
Part of the elevation in claims reflects people re-applying for benefits after the government in late December renewed a $300 unemployment supplement until 14 March as part of a package worth nearly $900 billion in additional pandemic relief.
Though January was the worst month since the onset of the pandemic, the decline in economic activity leveled off in the second half of the month amid signs of a peak in the recent coronavirus wave.
Data from Homebase, a payroll scheduling and tracking company, showed its measure of employees at work flattened out over the last two weeks of January, pausing the decline observed from December into January.
Other data today from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed planned job cuts announced by US-based employers rose only 3.3% to 79,552 in January.
Last week's claims data has no bearing on tomorrow's closely watched employment report for January as it falls outside the survey period, which was in the middle of the month.
Still, the signs of stability in other labour market measures support expectations that hiring rebounded in January after the economy shed jobs in December for the first time in eight months.
According to a Reuters poll of economists payrolls likely increased by 50,000 jobs in January after declining by 140,000 in December.
Hopes that the economy created jobs last month were boosted by reports yesterday which showed rebounds in private payrolls and services industry employment in January.
A survey this week also showed manufacturers hired more workers in January.
But some economists are bracing for a second month of job losses in a row in January.
The Conference Board's survey last week showed consumers' perceptions of labor market conditions deteriorated further in January.