(AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits
fell again last week to the lowest level since the pandemic
began last year, indicating that the job market and broader economy
are quickly recovering from the coronavirus
The Labor Department
reported Thursday that jobless claims
fell by 51,000 to 364,000, the lowest level since the beginning of the year. The rollout of vaccines
has significantly reduced new COVID-19
cases, giving consumers confidence to shop, travel
, eat out, and attend public events as the economy recovers.
All of that pent-up spending has created such a demand for workers, particularly in restaurants
and tourism businesses, that many employers have been struggling to fill positions even as the number of posted openings has reached a record high; however, many economists expect hiring to catch up with demand in the coming months, particularly as federal unemployment aid programs expire and more people
According to data provider FactSet, the government is expected to report on Friday that employers added 675,000 jobs
in June, which would be a significant number but not at a rate that would allow the economy to quickly regain its pre-pandemic level of employment, which is nearly 7 million jobs short.
Some businesses have complained that increased federal assistance to the unemployed, particularly a $300-per-week supplemental benefit designed to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic, has discouraged some people from looking for work.
Other factors that are thought to have contributed to the shortage of people looking for work include: difficulty arranging or affording child care
, lingering COVID-19 fears, early retirements by older workers, a slowdown in immigration
, and a decision by some people to seek new careers rather than return to their old jobs.