Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1960s in Booming Job Market

September 20, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

The fewest Americans asked for unemployment benefits since Spiro Agnew’s Des Moines address.

In the week ending Sept. 15, Americans made 201,000 initial unemployment insurance claims. That’s 3,000 less than the week before, and the lowest since the week ending Nov. 15, 1969, when it was 197,000, the Department of Labor (DOL) stated in a Sept. 20 release (pdf). The data is adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.

The main driver behind the downward trend is low layoffs as employers try to keep talent in a low unemployment market.

The average unemployment over the past six months dropped to 3.93 percent in August, the lowest since March 1970.

Employers offered more than 6.9 million job openings in July (pdf), while there were fewer than 6.3 million considered unemployed.

The number of initial jobless claims—the moments when people just start to collect their unemployment benefits—is difficult to compare to times past when the benefits were governed by different rules.

Still, the current numbers are exceptionally low. When counted per 100,000 Americans, they’re already lowest in history, per the DOL data reaching back to 1967.

Moreover, a downward trend has continued since peak claims of 661,000 in mid-March 2009, after the economic crisis.

On the other hand, most unemployed people don’t make insurance claims. And most jobless aren’t counted as unemployed. Only those who sought work over past four weeks are counted as unemployed, while some 5.5 million more would also like to have a job, but didn’t recently look for one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

President Donald Trump has been credited with invigorating the economy and has seldom passed an opportunity to cheer for the growing list of historical records and notable statistics.

“Financial and jobs numbers are fantastic,” he said in a Sept. 20 tweet. “There are plenty of new, high paying jobs available in our great and very vibrant economy. If you are not happy where you are, start looking – but also remember, our economy is only getting better. Vote in Midterms!”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock indexes rose to all-time highs on Sept. 20 after reports of strong corporate profits, especially in the technology sector.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab