Initial unemployment claims fell sharply below pre-pandemic levels and reached a low not seen since 1969, the Department of Labor reported on Wednesday. 

Reported jobless claims stood at 199,000 for the week ending Nov. 20, well below the forecasted estimate of 260,000 and a big drop from last week's 270,000.

For the first time in 20 months, the number dipped lower than the 225,000 from March 14, 2020 -- the last report before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

For the last two weeks, initial claims failed to exceed forecasts.

The last time numbers fell below 200,000 was the week of Nov. 17, 1969. 

Continuing unemployment claims fell to 2,432,281, a 752,390 drop from the previous week ending Nov. 6.