US jobless claims drop for first time in four weeks

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FILE – This May 7, 2020, file photo shows a man wearing a mask while walking under a Now Hiring sign at a CVS Pharmacy during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) —  The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits decreased last week to 326,000, another sign that the U.S. job market and economy continue their steady recovery from last year’s coronavirus recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims decreased by 38,000 from the previous week.

Claims have dropped from a record 6.149 million in early April 2020 but are still above the 200,000-250,000 range that is viewed as consistent with a healthy labor market.

The job market has been rebounding with surprising strength since the spring of 2020. Forced to shut down or restrict hours as a health precaution, employers slashed more than 22 million jobs in March and April last year. But massive aid from the federal government and the rollout of vaccines has supported an economic recovery, providing consumers with the financial wherewithal to spend and the confidence to return to restaurants, bars and shops.

“The expected path forward for the job market and the broader economy is considered to be fairly upbeat. Still, a higher-than-normal degree of uncertainty remains,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “Some time ago, it was thought that the reopening of the economy might have been roaring by now. But supply chain challenges and the Delta variant provided new plot twists which slowed the recovery.”

So far this year, employers have been adding 586,000 jobs a month, and this month’s employment report, due Friday, is expected to show they tacked on another 488,000 in September, according to a survey of economists by the data firm FactSet.

Companies are now complaining that they can’t find workers fast enough to fill a surge in job openings, a record 10.9 million in July.

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“While there are encouraging signs on the COVID front, supply chain issues may be persistent. The result is inflation at a higher pace than income improvement for many households, damaging to personal finances,” Hamrick said.

Altogether, 2.7 million Americans were receiving some type of jobless aid the week of Sept. 25. In early September, the federal government stopped additional aid — including $300 a week on top of traditional state benefits — that was meant to ease the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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