New US unemployment claims continue downward slide
Help Wanted (AFP)

New filings for weekly unemployment benefits hit a new pandemic low in the United States last week, government data showed on Thursday, bolstering the case that Covid-19 vaccines are allowing businesses to rehire.

The Labor Department reported 473,000 new seasonally adjusted claims for jobless benefits made in the week ended May 8, fewer than expected and 34,000 less than the previous week's upwardly revised level.

Another 103,571 people, not seasonally adjusted, made claims under a special program for freelance workers ineligible for regular aid, about 2,000 more than the week prior.

The figures marked a sharp reversal from the situation a year ago, when millions of jobless claims were filed each week after Covid-19 caused businesses to close or curtail operations and lay off workers.

Claims hovered in the high hundreds-of-thousands range for months, but the start of vaccination campaigns has caused a sustained fall in new applications in recent weeks. And Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said the latest data confirmed that the labor market was healing.

"The reopening is continuing, and businesses are less constrained by restrictions. We expect layoffs to ease further as the economy moves closer towards normal capacity," she said.

As of the week ended May 1, the insured unemployment rate indicating people receiving regular benefits was 2.6 percent, essentially flat from the week prior, with nearly 3.7 million people approved for aid.

However, in a reminder of the toll taken by the pandemic layoffs, the data showed nearly 16.9 million people receiving benefits under all aid programs as of the week ended April 24.