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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 19-month low last week, the US Labor Department reported Thursday.
First-time filings for unemployment benefits totaled 290,000 for the week ending Oct. 16, down 6,000 from the previous week. It marks the second week in a row that claims fell below 300,000.
Continuing claims also declined to their lowest level since the COVID-109 pandemic began, dropping to 2.48 million, a decrease of 122,000 from the prior week.
Both drops — which represent the lowest totals since March 14, 2020 — come about a month after most programs that provided pandemic-related unemployment benefits came to an end.
According to the Labor Department, the number of Americans receiving aid through state and federal programs fell by 369,992 to 3.279 million. A year ago, that total was nearly 24 million.
The latest claims data shows that the US is progressing toward the numbers of a pre-pandemic labor market, though it still has a way to go before a full recovery.
Over the past two months, hiring has slowed, even though employers have posted a near-record number of open jobs, The Associated Press reported.
Companies are continuing to grapple with a labor shortage that saw a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August — about 3% of the country’s workforce.
The mass exodus comes as a growing number of workers across the country are demanding higher pay, better employment conditions, more flexibility and support in their daily lives.
The unemployment rate has dropped a full 10 percentage points from the 14.8% peak in April 2020, but there are still 5 million fewer Americans at work than before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
There is some optimism that the expiration of enhanced government-funded benefits programs will broaden the labor pool in coming months.
"All this signals that most employers don’t need or want to shed workers," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, told Fox Business. "It is quite the contrary with job openings remarkably high."
"With the nation’s unemployment rate at 4.8 percent, and the job market regarded as tight in many markets and sectors, the headwinds of supply chain congestion and high inflation threaten to make further significant job market improvement hard to come by," Hamrick said.
Source: Equities News