U.S. unemployment claims fell below one million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, as the deeply wounded labor market continues to regain some footing.
New applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 963,000 in the week ended Aug. 8, the Labor Department said Thursday, marking the second weekly reduction in filings. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover the majority of workers, also decreased to about 15.5 million at the beginning of August.
But both figures remain well above even the worst figures before the pandemic struck, with the number of people receiving benefits more than double the 6.6 million reached in 2009.
Unemployment remains elevated as other measures of the economy, including consumer spending, also lag behind levels from before the coronavirus hit. An increase in coronavirus infections across much of the country continues to threaten economic gains as states put in place new restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.
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Still, the decline in jobless claims indicates layoffs are easing and hiring is picking up, said Julia Pollak, economist at job site ZipRecruiter.
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