Finance

Jobless claims fall to lowest level since 1970

New claims for unemployment insurance fell last week to their lowest point in 52 years, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.

In the week ending Feb. 19, initial weekly claims for unemployment aid fell by 17,000 to 232,000, falling from a revised total of 249,000. Claims rose by 24,000 in the week ending Feb. 12, breaking a string of three consecutive declines.

Jobless claims have remained largely near or below pre-pandemic levels since November with U.S. businesses still desperate to fill millions of open jobs. Firms have hesitated to lay off employees amid a record ratio of open jobs to unemployed workers, though claims ticked up slightly as the omicron variant ripped through the U.S.

“Unemployment claims dropped in the most recent week, as expected, as the recent rise was correlated with the Omicron wave. As the wave recedes, so too have layoffs. We are on track to hitting the historical average in the next few weeks,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, in a Tuesday statement.

Despite the blow of omicron and rising inflation, the U.S. job market has held strong since the end of 2021. The U.S. added an average of 541,000 each month since November and saw the unemployment rate hold even at 4 percent in January, just 0.5 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels.

Even so, millions of workers are yet to return to the labor market after leaving during the onset of the pandemic and economists are not certain when the U.S. will fill that gap.

–Updated at 1:26 p.m.

Tags economy Jobless claims Unemployment

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