U.S. Unemployment Claims Fell to 498,000 Last Week

Weekly unemployment claims fell to 498,000 last week—a new low since the Covid-19 pandemic began more than a year ago—in a fresh sign that the labor-market rebound is gathering force.

Worker filings for jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell 92,000 last week from 590,000 the prior week. That brings the four-week average of initial claims, which smooths out volatility in weekly data, to the lowest point since the pandemic took hold, though still well above pre-pandemic levels.

“Overall it looks like we’re seeing healing in the jobs market,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist for S&P Global Ratings.

“That’s much better than just over a year ago, but that’s still double what there was pre-crisis,” she said. “It would be [considered] bad in a normal recession, let’s just put it that way.”

With more than two-fifths of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated, Americans are spending on restaurant meals, travel and other services that they had shunned over the past year due to fear of Covid-19 and business restrictions. At the same time, government stimulus is boosting economic activity more generally.

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