The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to its lowest level since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the feds said Thursday.
The latest batch of 576,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to roughly 79.6 million — a figure equivalent to nearly half the nation’s workforce.
But last week saw the fewest number of new filings since March 14 of last year, just before the deadly virus sent claims soaring to record highs.
Initial claims fell from the prior week’s revised total of 769,000 and well outpaced economists’ expectations for 700,000 — a welcome movement after two consecutive increases even amid loosening lockdowns and accelerating vaccinations.
The unexpectedly positive report followed other signs that the US economy market is healing from the crisis, such as a 9.8 percent jump in retail sales and the addition of 916,000 jobs in March.
“Massive job gains will put downward pressures on layoffs,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said. “Still, the return to pre-pandemic levels will take some time.”
While vaccines and business reopenings have created optimism about the nation’s recovery from the pandemic-fueled downturn, new jobless claims stubbornly hovered above the pre-COVID record of 695,000 for 54 out of the last 56 weeks, US Department of Labor data show.
Workers claimed a total of 16.9 million weeks’ worth of benefits in the week ending March 27, with special pandemic jobless aid once again accounting for the bulk of those.
Some business owners say they’re struggling to fill open jobs because of the generous unemployment benefits meant to keep workers afloat during the pandemic, as The Post reported this week.
While some industries were grappling with labor shortages before COVID-19 hit, employers have tried raising wages and benefits to attract workers as the recovery gains steam.