WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has fallen for the sixth straight week as the U.S. economy, which has been curbed for months by the coronavirus pandemic, quickly reopens.
Unemployment claims fell by 9,000 from 385,000 the previous week to 376,000, the Ministry of Labor reported on Thursday. The number of beneficiaries exceeded 900,000 at the beginning of January and has since declined more or less steadily. Nevertheless, the demands are high in historical comparison. Before the pandemic nearly brought economic activity to a standstill in March 2020, weekly requests were regularly below 220,000.
Almost 3.5 million people received traditional state unemployment benefits for the week of May 29, 258,000 fewer than 3.8 million the week before.
Businesses are reopening quickly as the introduction of vaccines allows Americans to be more comfortable returning to restaurants, bars, and shops. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the number of job vacancies hit a record 9.3 million in April. The number of layoffs fell to 1.4 million, the lowest level since 2000; 4 million quit their jobs in April, another record and a sign that they are confident enough to try something new.
“As life normalizes and the service sector continues to gain momentum, we anticipate that initial jobless claims will continue to decline,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at the business and financial consultancy Maria Fiorini Ramirez, Inc.
In May, the US economy created 559,000 million new jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1% in April. Many economists expected employment growth to be even faster. The United States is still 7.6 million job shortages from February 2020.
But employers post jobs faster than potential applicants can fill them. Many Americans are grappling with health and childcare issues related to COVID-19 and career uncertainty after the coronavirus recession wiped out many jobs for good. Some take their time looking for work because the federal expanded unemployment benefits pay more than their old jobs.
Many states are slated to begin cutting federal benefits this month. A total of 15.3 million people received some sort of unemployment benefit for the week of May 22nd; a year earlier the number exceeded 30 million.
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