U.S. weekly jobless claims drop to 684,000, lowest since pandemic started

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WASHINGTON, March 25 (Xinhua) — Initial jobless claims in the United States fell to 684,000 last week, the lowest level since the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the labor market early last year, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

In the week ending March 20, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased by 97,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level of 781,000, according to a report released by the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The latest report also showed that the number of people continuing to collect regular state unemployment benefits in the week ending March 13 decreased by 264,000 to reach 3.87 million.

Meanwhile, the total number of people claiming benefits in all programs — state and federal combined — for the week ending Feb. 27 increased by 733,862 to 18.95 million, as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the pandemic.

Last spring, as COVID-19 shutdowns rippled through the workforce, initial jobless claims spiked by 3 million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, 2020, and then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28.

After that, the number, though at record highs, has been declining overall, but the trend was reversed multiple times since mid-July amid a COVID-19 resurgence and a slowing economic recovery.

While there are signs of recovery, the country is still down nearly 10 million jobs from its pre-pandemic peak, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen noted at a congressional hearing earlier this week.

“One-in-ten homeowners with a mortgage are behind on their payments, and almost one-in-five renters are behind on their rent. There are 22 million people who say they don’t have enough food to eat. One-in-ten adults are hungry in America,” Yellen said.

With the passage of the 1.9-trillion-dollar relief package, the treasury secretary said she is confident that people will reach the other side of the pandemic with the foundations of their lives intact, and the country may see “a return to full employment” next year.

According to the Federal Reserve’s latest economic projections released last week, the Fed puts the median projection of the unemployment rate at 4.5 percent by the end of this year and at pre-pandemic level of 3.5 percent by the end of 2023. Enditem

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