New US jobless claims plunge to 576,000, lowest since pandemic

People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, US, April 6, 2020. — Reuters pic
People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, US, April 6, 2020. — Reuters pic

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WASHINGTON, April 15 — New applications for US unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, reaching the lowest level since the Covid-19 pandemic caused mass unemployment, according to government data released today.

The Labour Department said there were 576,000 new jobless claims filed last week, seasonally adjusted, far fewer than analysts had expected and the fewest since the week ended March 14, 2020 — just before the coronavirus sparked business disruptions and millions of layoffs.

The total dropped nearly 200,000 from the previous week, which was revised upward, marking the largest weekly decrease since last August.

However, another 131,975 people, not seasonally adjusted, filed applications under a programme for freelance workers and others not normally eligible for aid, bringing total new claims to more than 700,000 in the week ended April 10.

That nonetheless is a relatively low number given that initial claims soared into the millions in the early weeks of the pandemic, and Kathleen Bostjancic of Oxford Economics said the data are a positive sign the US economy is rebounding.

“The reopening and rehiring has begun with gusto,” she said on Twitter.

This week’s positive report nudged the four-week moving average for initial claims down to 683,000.

However, the world’s largest economy, which enjoyed record low unemployment before the pandemic, remains short millions of jobs lost when the virus hit. 

As of the week ended March 27, nearly 17 million people were claiming jobless benefits under all government programmes, the report said.

And through April 3, the insured unemployment rate indicating people actually receiving regular benefits climbed slightly to 2.7 per cent with more than 3.7 million people receiving benefits. — AFP

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