Some 684,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the lowest number since the COVID-19 breakout a year ago, suggesting the jobs market may finally be turning the corner with the pandemic, Labor Department data showed Thursday
WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 25th March, 2021) Some 684,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the lowest number since the COVID-19 breakout a year ago, suggesting the jobs market may finally be turning the corner with the pandemic, Labor Department data showed Thursday.
"In the week ending March 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 684,000, a decrease of 97,000 from the previous week's revised level," the department said in a news release.
Economists polled by US media had forecast as many as 730,000 jobless claims filings for last week.
The weekly reading for annual unemployment fell by 0.2 percent to 2.7 percent, though policymakers tend to look at the monthly unemployment rate as a better gauge of the overall jobs picture.
"This initial job data is the lowest since the pandemic shutdown began," economist Greg Michalowski said in a posting on ForexLive, referring to the 684,000 filings for the week ended March 20. He, however, noted that more work was needed to bring filings to around the 280,000 level seen just before the COVID-19-related jobless spikes.
The United States lost more than 21 million jobs between March and April, at the height of business lockdowns forced by the coronavirus. About 10 million of those jobs may have not returned, data shows.
The US economy itself shrank 3.5 percent in 2020, after a 2.2 percent growth in 2019.
Some economists also pointed to the continued drop in continuing jobless weekly claims as a sign of labor market progress. Continuing weekly claims reported with a one-week lag slid to 3.9 million for the week ended March 20, from 4.13 million during the week to March 13.
A year into the COVID-19 crisis, restoring jobs growth remains one of the biggest challenges of US policymakers.
The US jobs report for February showed annual unemployment at 6.2 percent versus 2019 level of 3.5 percent, though that could change in March if weekly filings for benefits continue to decline.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said earlier this month the US central bank will likely keep rates at near-zero for the next two years until the annual employment rate fell to 4.0 percent or lower, denoting "maximum employment."