WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a new pandemic low last week, another sign of a recovery in the labor market from last year’s coronavirus recession.
The number of applications for unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 269,000 last week. Since the number of applications for weekly applications exceeded 900,000 in early January, the number of applications for them has declined more or less steadily and is gradually approaching the pre-pandemic level of about 220,000 per week.
Overall, 2.1 million Americans collected unemployment checks in the week of October 23, up from 7.1 million a year earlier, when the economy was still shaking due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The four-week average of filings, which smoothes out weekly highs and lows, fell below 285,000, also a pandemic low.
The labor market has been recovering since the pandemic hit the U.S. economy in the spring of 2020. In March and April of that year, employers cut more than 22 million jobs as governments ordered lockdowns and consumers and workers stayed home as a health precaution.
Government aid checks and vaccine distributions gave consumers the confidence and financial means to renew spending – so much so that companies struggled to keep up with rising demand. They complain that they cannot find workers to fill vacancies – nearly a record 10.4 million in August – and are forced to raise wages, offer signature bonuses and improve benefits and working conditions.
The economy has regained 17 million jobs lost to the pandemic, and economists expect Friday’s jobs report to show that jobs recovered another 400,000 in October. But the United States still lacks 5 million jobs compared to February 2020.