APR 15, 2021 / 08:02 AM CDT
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications plummeted by 193,000 from a revised 769,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims are now down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January.
“With a huge, better-than-expected decline in new claims for unemployment assistance, at long last the economic recovery appears to be picking up speed,” said Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst
with Bankrate. “Not only did the headline number of seasonally adjusted initial claims drop beneath the 700,000 level, but it continued on below 600,000 to the lowest since mid-March of 2020.”
For the week ending March 27, 16.9 million people were continuing to collect jobless benefits, down from 18.2 million in the previous week. Those figures make clear that even as the economy has strengthened in recent weeks, millions are facing a loss of a job or income and have been struggling to pay bills or rent.
The drop in claims comes after employers adding 916,000 jobs in March, the most since August, in a sign that a sustained recovery is taking hold as vaccinations accelerate, pandemic business restrictions are lifted in many states and Americans appear increasingly willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise spend again. The unemployment rate fell to 6%, from 6.2%, less than half the pandemic peak of nearly 15%.