By Eric Morath

New applications for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week but remained an elevated plateau for the fifth straight week, reflecting a labor-market recovery that is losing some momentum.

Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 837,000 in the week ended Sept. 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover most workers, decreased by 980,000 to about 11.8 million for the week ended Sept. 19.

The totals for unemployment applications and payments remain well above pre-pandemic peaks but are down significantly from this spring, when the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns caused both measures to rise to the highest levels on record back to the 1960s.

The latest data comes with a caveat. The Labor Department said California paused processing initial claims for two weeks in an effort to clear a backlog. This week's national report reflects the level during the last week prior to the pause. Data will be revised at a later date, the government said.

Write to Eric Morath at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 01, 2020 08:58 ET (12:58 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.