New jobless claims unexpectedly dipped below 800,000 last week, but still remained historically high as hundreds of thousands of more Americans were put out of work during the ongoing pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor released its weekly unemployment insurance claims report at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday. Here were the main metrics from the report, compared to Bloomberg estimates:

  • Initial jobless claims, the week ended Oct. 17: 787,000 vs. 870,000 expected and a revised 842,000 during the prior week

  • Continuing jobless claims, the week ended Oct. 10: 8.373 million vs. 9.625 million expected and a revised 9.397 million during the prior week

At 787,000 new jobless claims came in below 1 million for an eighth straight week, but at a level that still handily topped the pre-pandemic one-week record of 671,000 from 1982.

The improvement came even as California – the most populous state, and one that had previously contributed significantly to increases in new jobless claims – resumed reporting new claims to the national total. Unadjusted claims in California fell by 17,206 during the week ended Oct. 17 to 158,877. While this was still the highest among all states, it marked an improvement from the more than 200,000 claims the state was reported as recently as last month.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17: People receive food at the Thessalonica Christian Church during a distribution on October 17, 2020 in New York City. The Bronx, a borough which has long struggled with poverty and neglect, has been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The official unemployment rate in the Bronx is 21% while the unofficial number is presumed to be almost twice that. With many residents unable to afford health care and being home to a significant amount of front-line workers, the Bronx has the highest COVID-19 death rate in New York City.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17: People receive food at the Thessalonica Christian Church during a distribution on October 17, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, continuing claims, which measure the number of individuals still receiving state unemployment insurance benefits, also fell more than expected to below 9 million.

However, the leg lower in continuing claims likely reflects not a rise in re-hiring, but rather an increase in the number of individuals exhausting regular state aid and moving to the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides another 13 weeks of benefits. Unadjusted claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation jumped by more than 818,000 to 2.78 million, according to data from last week’s report.

“The recent decline in continuing claims for regular state programs appears to be driven by individuals reaching their 26-week maximum benefit period, which varies by state, and rotating over to the federally funded Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program,” Nomura economist Lewis Alexander said in a note last week. note. Initial jobless claims first spiked to well over 1 million during the week ended March 20, or about 30 weeks ago.

Since mid-September, “continuing claims in regular state programs have declined 1.6mn NSA [Not seasonally adjusted], but only 500k after incorporating individuals on extended benefits. As a result, regular continuing claims overstate the labor market recovery,” he added. “The recent plateauing in initial and total continuing unemployment claims is consistent with our view that the labor market recovery is moderating.”