WASHINGTON, United States, Aug 6- Workers filing for first-time jobless benefits dropped in the latest week to 1.19 million, well below what analysts had been expecting, and applications for pandemic assistance also fell, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
However, the four-week average for initial unemployment claims was barely changed at 1.33 million in the week ended August 1, the report said.
The data show job losses have continued in recent weeks, as cases of COVID-19 spiked in many states, forcing authorities to reimpose some restrictions.
The total workers continuing to receive jobless benefits fell to 16.1 million, but that was nearly 10 times higher than a year earlier, and the insured unemployment rate dipped six-tenths to a still-high 11 percent through the week ended July 25.
When all programs are combined, including pandemic emergency assistance and expanded unemployment benefits, 31.2 million workers were receiving help through the week ended July 18 — compared to just 1.7 million a year earlier.
Economists warn that the job market may have stalled in July, with the closely-watched government employment report Friday expected to show far smaller increase than in June.
“Repeated shutdowns for virus containment remain a threat to the labor market, which is already weak. The possibility of mounting layoffs that could become permanent is high,” Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said in an analysis.
“Overall, without effective virus containment the recovery remains at risk from ongoing job losses that could further restrain incomes and spending.”