WASHINGTON – The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell for the seventh week in a row to a pandemic low of 268,000.
Unemployment claims in the United States fell by 1,000 last week from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Unemployment assistance claims are a proxy for layoffs, and their steady decline this year – after surpassing 900,000 a week in early January – reflects the strong recovery in the labor market after the year’s brief but intense coronavirus recession last. The four-week claims average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also fell to a pandemic low just below 273,000.
Unemployment claims fell slightly, to their pre-pandemic level of around 220,000 per week.
Overall, 2.1 million Americans collected traditional unemployment checks in the week ending Nov. 6, down 129,000 from the previous week.
Until September 6, the federal government had supplemented state unemployment insurance programs by making an additional payment of $ 300 per week and extending benefits to concert workers and those who were out of work for six months or more. Including federal programs, the number of Americans receiving some form of unemployment assistance peaked at more than 33 million in June of last year.
The coronavirus hit the U.S. economy early last year, forcing many businesses to close or reduce their hours of operation and keep many Americans locked up in their homes as a health precaution. In March and April 2020, employers cut more than 22 million jobs.
But the economy started to recover last summer. Consumers, pocketing government relief checks and gaining confidence as COVID-19 cases declined, resumed spending. With the rollout of vaccines this year, they have started to return to shops, restaurants and bars.
Suddenly, many employers were struggling to cope with an unexpected increase in demand. They scramble to fill vacancies – a record close to 10.4 million in September. Workers, who find themselves with bargaining power for the first time in decades, are becoming selective about jobs; a record 4.4 million dropouts in September, a sign that they are confident in their ability to find something better.
Unemployment claims “have steadily declined and are approaching pre-pandemic levels,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics. “Layoffs are on the decline, reflecting the fact that companies are retaining their workers amid labor shortages. “
Since April 2020, employers have hired more than 18 million people, including 531,000 in October. But the US economy still lacks more than 4 million jobs from what it was in February last year.