By PAUL WISEMAN Economics Writer AP
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell from 14,000 to 385,000 last week, further proof that the economy and labor market are rebounding quickly after the coronavirus recession.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims – a proxy for layoffs – fell last week from a revised 399,000 the week before. Requests have more or less declined steadily since they exceeded 900,000 in early January. Yet they remain high from historic levels: before the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, they were hitting around 220,000 per week.
Since the crater in the spring of 2020, the U.S. economy has rebounded as vaccine rollouts encourage businesses to reopen or return to normal operating hours and consumers to return to stores, restaurants and bars. The United States has created more than 540,000 jobs per month this year, and the Labor Department’s July employment report released on Friday is expected to show it added nearly 863,000 more last month, according to a survey of economists at the data company FactSet.
The US economy is still 6.8 million jobs short from where it was in February 2020.
Companies are posting jobs – a record 9.2 million in May – faster than applicants show up to fill them. Many states have responded to complaints from businesses about a labor shortage by ending expanded federal unemployment benefits intended to ease financial strains from the health crisis, including an additional $ 300 per week on top of benefits traditional states. Federal benefits are expected to expire nationwide on September 6.