US unemployment claims drop to 269,000 pandemic low

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits decreased last week to a new low since the coronavirus pandemic, another signal the economy is rebounding from the pandemic.

The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims declined by 14,000 from the previous week, the fifth straight drop in a row.

Since topping 900,000 in early January, weekly applications have steadily dropped, moving ever closer to pre-pandemic levels just above 200,000. In all, 2.2 million people were collecting unemployment checks the week of Oct. 16, down from 7.7 million a year earlier.

Overall, 2.1 million Americans were collecting unemployment checks the week of Oct. 23 — down from 7.1 million a year earlier when the economy was still reeling from the coronavirus outbreak.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly ups and downs, dropped below 285,000, also a pandemic low.

The job market has been rebounding since the pandemic struck the U.S. economy in the spring of 2020. In March and April of that year, employers slashed more 22 million jobs as governments ordered lockdowns and consumers and workers stayed home as a health precaution.

Government relief checks and the rollout of vaccines have given consumers the confidence and financial wherewithal to resume spending — so much so that companies have scrambled to keep up with surging demand. They complain they can’t find workers to fill their job openings — a near-record 10.4 million in August — and are being forced to raise wages, offer signing bonuses and improve benefits and working conditions.

The economy has recovered 17 million of the jobs lost to the pandemic, and economists expect Friday’s jobs report to show that it regained another 400,000 in October. But the United States is still 5 million jobs short of where it stood in February 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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