Unemployment Claims in US Fall to 712,000 as Recovery Gets Accelerated | Business and economic news

Although the US labor market has slowly strengthened, many companies remain under pressure and 9.6 million jobs remain lost due to the pandemic that flattened the economy 12 months ago.

The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November – evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs as confirmed COVID-19 infections decline and the economy shows signs of improvement.

The United States Department of Labor said Thursday that claims for unemployment assistance had fallen by 42,000 from 754,000 the week before. Although the job market is slowly strengthening, many companies remain under pressure and 9.6 million jobs remain lost due to the coronavirus pandemic that flattened the economy 12 months ago.

In February, US employers added 379,000 robust jobs, the most since October, reflecting an economy in which consumers spend more and states and cities relax trade restrictions. Thursday’s figure, although the lowest weekly figure in four months, shows weekly jobless claims remain high by historical standards: before the viral outbreak, they had never exceeded 700,000 even during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

A total of 4.1 million Americans receive traditional state unemployment benefits. Including the additional federal unemployment programs that have been put in place to mitigate the economic damage caused by the virus, an estimated 20.1 million people receive some form of unemployment assistance.

The persistent job cuts reflect the extent to which the pandemic has disrupted normal economic activity and kept consumers squatting at home rather than traveling, shopping, dining out and frequenting places of entertainment. Cities and states have limited the hours and capacity of restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Even where the restrictions weren’t there, many Americans chose to stay home for months to avoid the risk of infection.

Now, however, as vaccinations are increasingly administered across the country, business boundaries are gradually relaxed, and consumers feel more comfortable engaging face-to-face with others, l optimism about the economy is growing. Last month, consumers rebounded from months of budget cuts to increase spending by 2.4% – the biggest increase in seven months and a sign the economy may be on the verge of sustaining a recovery.

People line up to get vaccinated against coronavirus disease at the Jordan Downs residential complex in Los Angeles, California, USA [File: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

In the meantime, the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 has fallen to an average of around 50,000 per day from nearly 250,000 in early January.

The economy outlook strengthened on Wednesday, when Congress gave final approval to a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will provide $ 1,400 in payments to most adults and extend benefits for most adults. weekly unemployment of $ 300 until early September. The legislation will also provide money for vaccines and viral treatments, the reopening of schools, state and local governments and struggling industries ranging from airlines to concert halls.

Many economists suggest that the combination of substantial federal aid, the increasing pace of vaccinations, persistently low borrowing rates, and increased consumer willingness to spend will result in a robust economic recovery later this year. Yet defeating the coronavirus remains essential to achieve a full recovery of the economy and the labor market.

“These are welcome policies, but they are always a temporary relief,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “To completely heal the labor market, the public health situation must be under control. The coronavirus started this mess and continues to cause massive economic damage on a daily basis. “

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