Fewer Americans file for jobless claims last week

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell again last week with numbers still at historically low levels.

Jobless claims in the U.S. declined by 5,000 to 180,000 for the week ending April 23, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time applications generally reflect the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out the weekly ups and downs, rose slightly to 179,750 from 177,500 the previous week.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending April 16 inched down by 1,000 from the previous week, to 1,408,000. That’s the fewest since February 21, 1970.

American workers are experiencing extraordinary job security two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the economy into a brief but devastating recession. Weekly applications for unemployment aid have been consistently below the pre-pandemic level of 225,000 for most of this year, even as the overall economy contracted.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the U.S. economy shrank last quarter for the first time since the pandemic recession struck two years ago, contracting at a 1.4% annual rate, even as consumers and businesses kept spending in a sign of underlying resilience.

Businesses have also kept hiring, adding a record 6.7 million jobs last year, and adding an average of 560,000 more each month so far in 2022. The unemployment rate, which soared to 14.7% in April 2020 in the depths of the COVID-19 recession, is now just 3.6%, barely above the lowest point in 50 years.

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