CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits edged slightly higher last week to 745,000, a sign that many employers continue to cut jobs despite a drop in confirmed viral infections and evidence that the overall economy is improving.
The U.S. Labor Department released its latest figures Thursday, showing that last week’s unemployment claims slightly increased by 9,000 claims.
Though the pace of layoffs has eased since the year began, they remain high by historical standards. Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession.
The number of Americans receiving traditional unemployment benefits also decreased to nearly 4.3 million, a decline of 124,000.
Restrictions on businesses and the reluctance of many Americans to shop, travel, dine out or attend mass events have weighed persistently on the job market. Job growth averaged 29,000 a month from November through January, and the nation still has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did in February 2020.
“There’s no doubt that businesses and consumers alike are eager to resume activities taken for granted before the pandemic,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “Employers will need to walk a tightrope in the months ahead between preparing for and reacting to a pick-up in demand. For individuals, the challenge will be to balance the eagerness to spend with their long-term financial goals including saving for emergencies and for retirement.”
This comes as lawmakers continue to weigh President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package with the Senate expected to convene Thursday night to debate. The House canceled its session following warnings of a potential plot to breach the Capitol.
The legislation would provide offer a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report