US jobless claims fall to 199,000, lowest in 52 years
Washington The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week fell to its lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the US labor market is recovering rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession.
Jobless claims fell by 71,000 to 199,000, the lowest level since mid-November 1969. But seasonal adjustments around the Thanksgiving holiday contributed significantly to the larger-than-expected decline. Unadjusted, claims actually increased by more than 18,000 to nearly 259,000.
The four-week average of claims, which moderates the weekly ups and downs, also fell – by 21,000 to just over 252,000, the lowest level since mid-March 2020 when the pandemic slammed the economy.
Since it topped 900,000 in early January, requests have steadily fallen back toward the pre-pandemic level of about 220,000 per week and have now fallen below the pre-pandemic level. Claims for unemployment assistance are a proxy for layoffs.
Overall, 2 million Americans collected traditional unemployment checks in the week that ended November 13, down slightly from the previous week.
“Overall, we expect volatility to continue in the key numbers, but the trend remains very low,” Macro Advisors wrote in a research note.
As of September 6, the federal government had supplemented the state’s unemployment insurance programs by paying an additional $300 a week and extending benefits to temporary job workers and those who had been unemployed for six months or more. Including federal programs, the number of Americans receiving some form of unemployment assistance peaked at more than 33 million in June 2020.
The job market has seen a remarkable comeback since the spring of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close or cut business hours and kept many Americans at home as a health precaution. In March and April last year, employers cut more than 22 million jobs.
But government relief checks, ultra-low interest rates and the introduction of vaccines combine to give consumers the confidence and cash to start spending again. Employers, striving to meet the unexpected surge in demand, have hired 18 million new employees since April 2020 and are expected to add another 575,000 this month. However, the US still lacks the 4 million jobs it had in February 2020.
Companies are now complaining about not being able to find workers to fill vacancies, a figure of nearly 10.4 million in September. Workers, who find themselves wielding great bargaining power for the first time in decades, are becoming more picky about jobs; A record 4.4 million quits in September, in a sign of their confidence in their ability to find something better.
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