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April 15, 2021 10:45 AM, EDT

State Jobless Claims in US Fall to Lowest Since March 2020

A caricature artist draws the image of a couple in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Micah Green/Bloomberg News)A caricature artist draws the image of a couple in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Micah Green/Bloomberg News)

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The number of applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest since the pandemic began, indicating the labor market continues to thaw as governments lift restrictions on business and activity picks up.

Initial claims in regular state programs decreased by 193,000 to 576,000 in the week ended April 10, Labor Department said April 15. The prior week’s total was revised upward to 769,000. The latest figure was below all estimates in a Bloomberg survey that had a median projection of 700,000 initial claims.

The decrease in claims shows the labor market continues to improve as more Americans get vaccinated and businesses fill positions left empty by a pandemic-related slowdown in activity. Despite the decline in jobless applications, the labor market recovery still has a long way to go as weekly claims remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Filings for U.S. initial jobless benefits fell below 600,000 last week.

California saw an unadjusted decline of more than 75,000 applications. Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky also saw drops of more than half from the prior week.

Claims data have been volatile during the pandemic due to backlogs, fraud and new programs. The figures tend to be more turbulent around holidays, with Easter occurring earlier in the month and many schools on spring break.

Continuing claims for ongoing state benefits were little changed at 3.73 million in the week ended April 3. Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed and gig workers totaled about 132,000 last week.

In a separate report, retail sales jumped in March by the most in 10 months as business reopenings, increased hiring and a fresh round of stimulus checks emboldened shoppers.

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