WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has dropped for the sixth consecutive week.
Unemployment claims fell by 9,000 to 376,000 from 385,000 the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of people who signed up for benefits in early January exceeded 900,000 and has more or less fallen since then. By historical standards, demands are still high. Before the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March 2020, weekly applications regularly amounted to less than 220,000.
Nearly 3.5 million people received traditional state unemployment benefits in the week of May 29, with a 258,000 drop from 3.8 million the previous week.
The Department of Labor reported on Tuesday that jobs had reached 9.3 million in April. Dismissals dropped to 1.4 million, the lowest in records dating back to 2000; 4 million ended their jobs in April, another record and a sign.
“As life returns to normal and the service sector continues to gain momentum, we expect initial jobless claims to continue to decline,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief economist at US and economic advisory firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc.
In May, the U.S. economy created 559,000 million new jobs, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent from 6.1 percent in April. Many economists expected them to grow even faster. The United States still has 7.6 million jobs short of where it stood in February 2020.
But employers are filling vacancies faster than prospective applicants can fill them. Many Americans are struggling with health and childcare issues related to COVID-19 and with career uncertainty after the coronavirus recession destroyed many jobs. Some take their time looking for work because extended federal unemployment benefits pay more than their old jobs.
Many states will relinquish federal benefits this month. A total of 15.3 million people will receive some form of unemployment assistance in the week of 22 May; a year earlier, the number had exceeded 30 million.