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Jobless claims fell more than expected last week, hitting a pandemic low

Claims for unemployment benefits went down more than expected last week. That’s good news.

Economists are confident that the labor market recovery will gather speed as the economy reopens fully and more people get vaccinated. But jobless claims rose in two of the past four weeks, stressing that the road to recovery will be bumpy.

Another 547,000 American workers filed jobless claims last week, adjusted for seasonal swings, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was a new low for claims since the pandemic started.

Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv had predicted the number of claims to increase from the previous week. The better-than-expected result is a really good sign that “is likely to bolster investor optimism that the US economic recovery is indeed underway,” said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

That said, claims are still far higher than in pre-pandemic times, when they hovered in the low 200,000.

Claims for pandemic unemployment assistance, which provides benefits for people like the self-employed who aren’t eligible for regular state benefits, rose slightly to 133,319 without seasonal adjustments.

Added together, just under 700,000 people filed for benefits last week without seasonal adjustments.

Meanwhile, the count for continued jobless claims — the number of people filing for at least two weeks in a row — also fell, albeit at a slower pace. In the week ended April 10, continued claims stood at nearly 3.7 million.

We’re past the one-year mark in the pandemic and with economic data bringing good news of the recovery it’s easy to forget how much work still needs to be done to get back to normal.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs and many are yet to return to the labor force.

“A firmer recovery in several sectors, including leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare, is necessary to move the needle on overall unemployment and labor force participation,” said Birch in emailed comments.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how many weeks claims rose over the past month. Unemployment benefits rose in two of the past four weeks.

CNN

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