(AP) — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits
increased slightly last week, despite the fact that the economy
and labor market appear to be recovering from the coronavirus recession with vigour.
The Labor Department
reported on Thursday that jobless claims
increased by 2,000 from the previous week to 373,000, while weekly applications, which generally track the pace of layoffs
, have fallen steadily this year from more than 900,000 at the beginning of the year.
As businesses reopen, employers struggle to fill jobs
, and consumers emerge from months of lockdown to travel
, shop, and spend at restaurants
, bars, retailers, and entertainment
venues, the rollout of vaccinations
a powerful economic recovery.
The government estimates that the economy expanded at a brisk 6.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year; in the April-June quarter, the annual rate is thought to have reached a scorching 10%; and for the entire year of 2021, the Congressional Budget
Office projects that growth will be 6.7%, the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984.
The economy is recovering so quickly that many businesses are struggling to find workers fast enough to meet increased customer demand. The government reported on Wednesday that employers in the United States
added 9.21 million jobs in May, the most since records began in 2000.
In June, employers added a solid 850,000 jobs, and hourly pay rose a solid 3.6% year on year — faster than the pre-pandemic annual rate and a sign that businesses are being forced to pay more to attract and retain workers.
Still, the country is 6.8 million jobs short of the level it had in February 2021, just before the coronavirus pandemic
ripped through the economy and eliminated tens of millions of jobs, and weekly applications for unemployment benefits, while down sharply from earlier peaks, remain comparatively high: prior to the pandemic, they were only around 220,000 per week.
During the week of June 19, the total number of Americans receiving jobless benefits, including supplemental federal checks intended to provide relief during the pandemic recession, was 14.2 million, down from 33.2 million the previous year.
Many states, however, have dropped federal aid in response to complaints that the generous benefits were discouraging some of the unemployed from looking for work: A total of 26 states plan to end the $300-a-week federal benefit before it expires nationally on Sept. 6. The majority of those states will also cut off federal assistance to the self-employed, gig workers, and people
who have been out of work for m
Nonetheless, many factors other than the increased federal jobless benefits are thought to have contributed to the shortage of people looking for work again: 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.
Christopher Rugaber, an AP Economics Writer
, assisted with this report.