U.S. Unemployment Claims Take Dip for Third Week, Now at 223,000

Fewer Americans are filing for unemployment, with the number of claims falling by 16,000 last week.

About 223,000 applications for jobless benefits were filed, down from 239,000 the previous week, according to the Department of Labor. It was the third straight week of declines. Last week, the department reported that 467,000 new jobs were added in January. Its new report also says that the insured unemployment rate, which is based on the number of people receiving unemployment insurance or benefits, remains at 1.2 percent.

The nation's unemployment rate stands at a low 4 percent. But the latest statistics come during a difficult time for those employed. Despite new jobs being created and increases in wages, many workers lost money last year because of rising prices, Newsweek reported. In fact, inflation was responsible for the typical private-sector worker seeing a 2.4 percent cut in pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"This is going to be a year in which we move steadily away from the very highly accommodative monetary policy we put in place to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on January 26. He also said that inflation "has gotten a bit worse" since the beginning of 2022.

At the same time, many employers have been feverishly looking for people to fill open positions, which appears to be supported by the Department of Labor's new statistics.

"Employers are pulling out all the stops to attract workers," ZipRecruiter Chief Economist Julia Pollak told Newsweek last month. "Historically, we've seen 2.4 unemployed people per job opening at any one time on average, but now it is 0.6 unemployed people per opening. Businesses are fighting a war for talent."

The Labor Department's new report also includes individual state statistics. For the week ending January 22, Alaska had the highest insured unemployment rate, at 2.9 percent. However, the state saw a slight decrease in filed claims, with 1,159 filed by February 5.

California has the second-highest rate of insured unemployment, at 2.7 percent. But the state reported a large decrease in claims, at 2,595. Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island and the Virgin Islands all had the same rate, 2.5 percent. New York reported a 2.4 percent rate, while Massachusetts' rate was 2.3 percent. Puerto Rico had a 2.1 percent rate.

Veteran and federal civilian statistics were also recorded in the Labor Department's latest report. In the week ending January 29, 651 claims were filed by former federal civilian employees. These claims decreased by 33 from the prior week. Newly discharged veterans filed 405 claims, an increase of 43.

Update 02/10/2022, 9:38 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include more background and other Department of Labor statistics.

Maine, Unemployment Benefits, Inmate Work Release
The number of unemployment claims has dropped for the third week in a row, to 223,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Above, a person files an application for jobless benefits on April 16, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images