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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

First-time applications for unemployment fell last week, according to Department of Labor data released on Thursday.

Between the lines: The overall number of Americans relying on unemployment also fell to a still-staggering 23 million. But there are continued signs of labor market strain, with more people shifting to an unemployment program designed for the long-term jobless.

By the numbers: Filings for regular state unemployment came in at 787,000 — still above pre-pandemic peaks, but a dramatic decline from the 6 million new weekly applications filed early on in the pandemic.

  • Add in applications for the unemployment program designed for gig workers and self-employed, and total new filings came to 1.1 million.
  • The report included figures from California, which paused reporting of its weekly claims figures to get through its growing backlog of new applications. Revisions from that state lowered the overall number of jobless applications in recent weeks.

What to watch: The number of workers that have continued to receive unemployment benefits — after filing for the first time — fell by over 1.2 million, but much of that decline is because workers have exhausted unemployment benefits.

  • Over half a million workers shifted into the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which allows those whose regular unemployment benefits expired to receive an additional 13 weeks of support.
  • More than 3 million Americans are now receiving benefits through that program.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Economic growth is slowly returning

Data: New York Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Fed's index of real-time data indicators shows the reversal of the economy's progress in late December and early January, but it moved upwards again last week.

Driving the news: Central bankers said the index's rise for the week of Jan. 9 was due to increases in tax withholding, fuel sales and rail traffic, which countered disappointing numbers for initial unemployment insurance claims and a decrease in electricity output.

Updated 6 mins ago - Sports

MLB headed for first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.