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Unemployment claims fall to pandemic low

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits has fallen to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic, a sign that the job market continues to improve even as hiring has slowed in the past two months.

Unemployment claims fell from 36,000 to 293,000 last week, the second consecutive drop, the Labor Department said Thursday. This is the smallest number of people to claim benefits since March 2020, when the pandemic escalated. Claims for unemployment assistance, which usually keep pace with layoffs, have steadily declined since last spring as many companies, struggling to fill jobs, have kept their workers.

Hiring has slowed in the past two months, even as businesses and other employers posted near-record openings. Companies are struggling to find workers as around three million people have lost their jobs and have stopped looking for work since the pandemic have not yet resumed their job searches. Economists were hoping more people would find jobs in September as schools reopen, ease childcare constraints and improved unemployment assistance ends nationwide.

But the recovery did not happen, with employers adding just 194,000 jobs last month. On a positive note, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2%, although part of this decline occurred because many unemployed people stopped looking for work and were not. no longer counted as unemployed.

At the same time, Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, with around 3% of workers leaving in August. Workers were particularly likely to quit their jobs in restaurants, bars and hotels, possibly spurred by fear of the delta variant of COVID-19, which was still spreading rapidly in August.

Other workers likely quit to take advantage of the higher wages offered by companies with vacant positions, or quit their jobs because childcare for children too young to go to school has been more difficult. to find.

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