Washington, D.C. — Applications for unemployment aid have been fluctuating from week to week, offering an uncertain view of layoffs and the job market.
First-time requests for jobless aid dropped last week to their lowest level since early May, the government said Thursday, erasing increases made in the last two months.
Still, economists say it’s hard to detect a trend in one week of declines. Initial claims have seesawed for several weeks and are not much lower than they were in January.
Elevated unemployment claims, along with last month’s weak jobs report and a struggling housing market, have suggested that the recovery is slowing.
“While the report is good news, it would need to be followed up by several more weeks to suggest a pickup in hiring,” Julia Coronado, an economist at BNP Paribas, said in a note to clients.
Meanwhile, the total number of unemployed Americans receiving benefits is dropping sharply because their aid is ending. About 350,000 people stopped receiving benefits in the week of June 19. Most of them were cut off because Congress has yet to extend federal jobless aid.