Jobless claims tumble below 500,000 in another sign the labor market is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels

The U.S. employment picture improved sharply last week, with first-time claims for unemployment insurance dipping below 500,000 for the first time since the pandemic crisis.

Initial claims totaled 498,000 for the week ended May 1, against the Dow Jones estimate of 527,000. That was down from the previous week’s total of 590,000, which saw a substantial upward revision from the initially reported 553,000.  A separate economic report showed that nonfarm business labor productivity accelerated 5.4% in the first quarter, well above the 4.5% Dow Jones estimate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unit labor costs fell 0.3%, which was not as much as the 1% forecast.