by Paul Wiseman
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the US job market is rebounding sharply from last year’s coronavirus slowdown. .
Jobless claims fell by 71,000 to 199,000, the lowest since mid-November 1969. But the seasonal adjustments around the Thanksgiving holiday contributed significantly to the decline more than expected. Unadjusted, claims actually rose by more than 18,000 to nearly 259,000.
The four-week average of claims, which smoothes out weekly volatility, also fell – from 21,000 to just over 252,000, the lowest since mid-March 2020 when the pandemic slammed the economy.
Since topping 900,000 in early January, there has been a steady decline in applications and is now falling below its pre-pandemic level of around 220,000 per week. Jobless aid claims are a proxy for layoffs.
Overall, 2 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment checks in the week ending November 13, up slightly from the previous week.
“Overall, continued volatility is expected in headline data, but the trend is less than very slow,” Casual Macro Advisors wrote in a research note.
As of September 6, the federal government had supplemented state unemployment insurance programs by paying an additional $300 per week and benefits to gig workers and those who had been out of work for six months or more. The number of Americans receiving any form of jobless aid, including federal programs, exceeded 33 million in June 2020.
The job market has made a remarkable comeback since the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close or cut 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, super-low interest rates and the rollout of vaccines provided consumers the confidence and financial means to start spending again. Employers, to meet the unexpected increase in demand, have hired 18 million new ones since April 2020 and expects to add another 575,000 this month. Still, the United States has 4 million fewer jobs in February 2020.
Companies now complain that they are not getting employees for job openings, which hit a record 10.4 million in September. For the first time in decades, workers, finding themselves under the sway of bargaining, are becoming more picky about jobs; A record 4.4 million left jobs in September, a sign they are confident in their ability to find something better.