New claims for unemployment benefits fell for the second consecutive week, this time to 293,000, the first time they have slid below 300,000 since March 2020 and approaching the 225,000 weekly average that prevailed before the COVID virus took hold.
The new number beat the 319,000 average predicted by economists Bloomberg had surveyed.
Continuing claims also fell to 2.57 million, their lowest since March 2020 and also handily beating analysts’ expectation of 2.67 million.
TREND FORECAST: While the latest reading is encouraging, look for jobless claims to continue to bounce up and down. 
Ongoing commodities shortages and supply chain tangles will hamper consumer spending and hold back the economy in general, at least for the next several months. As a result, following the holiday season, retail employers will be cautious in hiring and will lay off more workers or close more stores after a disappointing winter holiday shopping season.

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