Initial claims for state unemployment benefits in the US fell to 684,000 in late March for the first time in a year. Believe it or not, that's important. "Initial claims" sounds like something only an economist could love (and a nerdy one at that). This weekly statistic represents the first filing for unemployment for a specific claim--basically layoffs or jobs that have recently been eliminated. We normally don't pay much attention to it, but it got more headlines during the pandemic as a weekly barometer for how the economy was faring.