WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell to a new low last week since the pandemic began, signaling fewer layoffs as companies retain workers.
Jobless claims fell from 6,000 to 290,000 last week, the third consecutive fall, the Labor Department said Thursday. This is the lowest number of people applying for benefits since March 14, 2020, when the pandemic intensified. Jobless claims, which usually track the rate of layoffs, have been steadily declining from 900,000 in January.
Unemployment claims are increasingly back on track, but many other aspects of the labor market have yet to do so. Recruitment has slowed in the past two months, even as companies and other employers have posted nearly a record number of job openings. Officials such as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hoped more people would find jobs in September as schools reopened, childcare restrictions eased and unemployment assistance increased across the country.
But so far this has not happened. Instead, some observers are beginning to wonder if it is possible that some of those who had jobs before the pandemic and lost them have stopped looking for jobs forever.
Christopher Waller, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said Tuesday that two million of the 22 million jobs lost to the pandemic may not return anytime soon because retirement has accelerated since COVID-19 infection.
A Labor Department report on Thursday also showed that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits continued to decline steadily. According to the latest available data, 3.3 million people received unemployment benefits in the week of October 2, up from 3.6 million in the previous week.
A year ago, almost 24 million people received unemployment benefits.
About 7 million people lost unemployment benefits in September after the expiration of two emergency relief programs launched in March 2020. One program provided assistance to wage earners and self-employed workers who were traditionally not eligible for unemployment insurance, and the other covered workers who had been unemployed for more than six months. And an additional $ 300 a week in federal unemployment benefits expired nationwide on September 6.