WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to 547,000, the lowest point since the pandemic struck and an encouraging sign that layoffs are slowing on the strength of an improving job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications declined 39,000 from a revised 586,000 a week earlier. Weekly jobless claims are down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January. At the same time, they’re still far above the roughly 230,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak ripped through the economy in March of last year.
About 17.4 million people were continuing to collect unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 3, up from 16.9 million in the previous week. Most of the increase occurred in two states, California and Texas. In California, recipients of a federal program for the long-term unemployed jumped nearly 50%, a sign that the state likely processed a backlog of claims that had been filed earlier. Other states, too, have been struggling with backlogs of applications.