WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits
fell to 444,000 last week, a new pandemic
low and a sign that the job market is improving as consumers spend freely again, viral
infections fall, and business
The Labor Department
reported on Thursday that applications were down 34,000 from a revised 478,000 a week earlier, and that the number of weekly jobless claims
— a rough measure of the pace of layoffs — has been steadily declining since the start of the year.
The release of the data coincides with rapid moves by nearly all of the country's Republican
governors to cut off a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit that they and many business executives blame for discouraging the unemployed from looking for work
. The cuts in federal jobless aid will begin in June.
According to an Associated Press
analysis, twenty-two states, ranging from Texas
and Iowa, have taken action to block the federal government's $300 weekly payment for the unemployed, with two more, Florida
, considering doing so. All 24 states have Republican governors and state legislatures.
Unemployed Americans can now receive the federal benefit, which was included in President Joe Biden
's $1.9 trillion financial rescue package, in addition to their state jobless benefits.
According to Oxford Economics, the elimination of federal jobless assistance in the states targeted would reduce unemployment benefits for 3.5 million people