US jobless claims sink down to 411,000 as economy heals

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped slightly last week, a sign that layoffs declined and the job market is improving.

The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims declined just 7,000 from the previous week to 411,000. The number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen steadily this year from about 900,000 in January. The level of unemployment claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs.

As the pandemic fades, states and cities are lifting more business restrictions — California just fully reopened June 15 — and the economy is picking up as consumers are traveling, eating out more, and visiting movie theaters and amusement parks. Growth could top 10% at an annual rate in the April-June quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

“We’ve seen an improvement from the unprecedented unemployment figures and unprecedented times of one year ago, but with 14.8 million Americans registered as unemployed, little changed from last week, there is need for continued progress in the months ahead,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

With many employers desperate to hire, some states are starting to cut off several pandemic-related unemployment aid programs in response to business complaints that the assistance is making it harder for them to find workers. Starting this month, 26 states will end an extra $300 weekly federal unemployment payment and 22 of those states will also cut off all jobless assistance to self-employed, gig workers, and those out of work more than six months. The extra $300 ends nationwide Sept. 6.

Four states — Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri — stopped providing the $300 payment last week. All but Alaska also cut off the two programs that covered the self-employed and the long-term jobless.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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