By Nathalie Voit

Jobless claims sank to their lowest level in over five decades in the week ending April 2, the Labor Department said in an economic release published April 7.

Initial filings for unemployment dropped 5,000 from the previous week to 166,000, well below analyst estimates of 200,000 and the lowest since November 1968.

Initial claims fell 5,000 after the previous week’s unemployment data was downwardly revised from 202,000 to 171,000, the department said.

The department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reported a change in its seasonal adjustment methodology. BLS noted that all claims since 2017 had been revised to reflect a new “hybrid adjustment approach” and that this could result in one-time larger revisions to the data than usual.

Insured unemployment, or continuing claims, rose to 1,523,000 during the week ending March 26 (data on continued claims runs one week behind). The previous week’s figure was upwardly revised from 1,307,000 to 1,506,000, the department said Thursday.

The total number of Americans filing for benefits in all programs declined to 1.72 million in the week ending March 19. For reference, there were 18.39 million weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs during the same week in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the ever-tightening labor market, severe worker shortages still abound. According to BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, there are approximately five million more job openings than workers available to fill the slots. This phenomenon pushes wages up but contributes to elevated levels of inflation.

The red-hot labor market is driving the Federal Reserve to press ahead with more aggressive monetary policy. Many economists widely project a 50-basis point rate hike increase at the Fed’s next meeting in May.