U.S. unemployment benefits fall close to pre-pandemic level

U.S. unemployment benefits fall close to pre-pandemic level

WASHINGTON, November 18, Reuters - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell close to pre-pandemic levels last week, as the labor market recovery gains momentum, though a shortage of workers continues to hamper faster job gains.

For the week ending Nov. 13, initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the lowest level since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic in the United States more than 20 months ago.

In the last week, 260,000 applications were predicted by economists polled by Reuters.

The seventh week of decline in claims left them just above the 256,000 level in mid-March 2020. Claims are now in a range that is associated with a healthy labor market.

They were down from a record high of 6.149 million in early April 2020.

The continued improvement is consistent with other data that suggested an acceleration in economic activity after a lull over the summer due to a wave of coronaviruses that have battered the nation. The government reported a surge in retail sales in October. Production at factories rebounded sharply last month.

The government surveyed business establishments for the nonfarm payrolls component of the November employment report during the period during which they covered the claims data.

Since mid-October, claims have gone down, which would suggest stronger employment growth. The nearly two-year long pandemic has resulted in worker shortages, leaving 10.4 million job openings at the end of September.

In October, the economy created 531,000 jobs. The labor force is down 3 million from the pre-pandemic level, and employment growth has averaged 582,000 jobs per month this year.