Weekly jobless claims, the number of new workers filing for unemployment benefits, fell 18,000 to 324,000 for the week that ended April 27, the lowest level since the beginning of the Great Recession. The five-year low shows that even as employers remain hesitant to expand hiring, they are laying off fewer workers.
The number came in well below expectations and comes a day before the April employment report, which is expected to show that the economy gained 145,000 jobs last month. The Federal Reserve announced yesterday that it will continue its bond-buying and monetary easing to help bolster the recovery, and it may do more in the future if job growth remains slow.
Even as new unemployment claims reached their lowest levels since the beginning of the recession, the long-term unemployed are facing challenges brought on by budget cuts at the state and local level. There are 4.7 million Americans who have been out of work for at least six months, but multiple states have cut eligibility for unemployment insurance, rendering many of the long-term unemployed ineligible for federal benefits. And sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, has led to bigger reductions in long-term unemployment benefits — and could result in more — at a time when those workers are facing a discriminatory hiring environment that has made it nearly impossible for them to return to work.