The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell for the third time in four weeks as businesses continued to recover from coronavirus lockdowns, the feds said Thursday.
Last week’s 712,000 initial jobless claims nevertheless brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to more than 81 million — a number nearly as large as Iran’s entire population.
New jobless filings have declined over the past month as states eased restrictions imposed to curb the deadly winter surge in coronavirus infections.
Officials have also ramped up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, which are viewed as crucial to helping the economy recover from last year’s historic downturn.
“A strong rebound in the industries severely affected by lockdowns will intensify this spring, boosted by accelerating vaccine distribution and the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package set to be signed this week,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.
Economists were expecting the US Department of Labor to report 725,000 new jobless claims last week in line with those trends, according to Wrightson ICAP.
But unemployment filings have now remained above the pre-COVID record of 695,000 for 51 consecutive weeks, according to the feds’ report — which was the released on the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the virus a global pandemic.
The latest figures also came three days before crucial federal unemployment aid programs — including a $300 boost to weekly benefits — are slated to expire.
The massive stimulus package Congress passed this week would extend those programs into September, but President Biden must sign the bill to keep them in place.