Unemployment Claims Reach Pandemic Low

September 2, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a pandemic low 340,000, a sign the economy continues to improve, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The number of claims declined by 14,000, as vaccinations for COVID-19 have encouraged businesses to reopen or expand hours and start hiring again.

Filings for jobless aid have long been regarded as a real-time measure of the labor market’s health. But recently concerns have been raised about whether the numbers have been inflated as Americans grapple with the new complexities of applying for benefits since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The job market has been rebounding steadily since the pandemic paralyzed economic activity last year and employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April 2020. 

The nation has since recovered 16.7 million jobs, and economists have estimated that Friday’s jobs report for August will show that employers added 750,000 more last month. 

In addition, posted job openings — a record 10.1 million in June — have been rising faster than applicants have lined up to fill them.

For many still looking for work, next week could be difficult. 

A $300-a-week federal benefit, which was made available to the unemployed on top of their regular state jobless aid after the pandemic hit, will expire Monday. 

When it does, it is estimated that more than 11 million people in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will feel the pinch.

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