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Jobless claims drop to 712,000, near pandemic low

Jobless claims drop to 712,000, near pandemic low
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Initial jobless claims for the first week of March dropped to a seasonally adjusted 712,000, just 1,000 more than the pandemic low in November.

The figure remains extraordinarily high, as it has now stood above pre-pandemic weekly totals for every week for nearly a year.

But the 42,000-claim drop represents a move in the right direction for the economy and beat Wall Street's expectations of 725,000 new claims.

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That figure does not include 478,000 people who applied for claims under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency program set to be renewed when President BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE signs the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill the House approved Wednesday.

The combined total of new claims amounts to 1.2 million.  

The relief plan will also extend the length of benefit programs and an added $300 supplement to all recipients through the beginning of September.

“Continued aid is vital because new applications for unemployment assistance are still coming in at far too high of levels," said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

"While the volume remains concerningly high, the trend, especially when it comes to state claims, is moving in the right direction," he added.

Overall claims for all unemployment programs came in at 20 million for the week ending Feb. 20, the last week for which data is available.

February saw an unexpected spike in new job creation, with the economy adding 379,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent. But supporters of further government intervention noted that even at that rate, which would normally be seen as breakneck levels of improvement in the labor market, it would take two years to get the economy back to pre-pandemic levels.

--Updated at 8:56 a.m.