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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in 52 years — more evidence the U.S. job market is recovering from last year's coronavirus recession.
Unemployment claims dropped by 43,000 — to 184,000 — this past week, the lowest since September 1969, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
The four-week moving average, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, fell below 219,000, the lowest since the pandemic hit the United States hard in March 2020.
Seasonal volatility likely contributed to last week's drop as the Labor Department adjusted the numbers to reflect job market fluctuations around the holidays, said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.
Before seasonal adjustments, claims actually rose by nearly 64,000, to almost 281,000.
Still, Stanley said in a research note that “the underlying trend remains downward and should be lower than it was prior to the pandemic ... . The unfilled demand for workers is much larger than it was then and layoffs appear to be noticeably lower.''
In Iowa, numbers continued to fluctuate.
Iowa’s initial claims for the week ended Dec. 4 climbed — to 3,887 from 1,797 — from the previous week’s report. And that week’s — for Nov. 27 — was a drop, from 2,853 from the previous week ended Nov. 20.
Nov. 13’s first-time applications was recorded at 1,811.
Continued claims in Iowa for this past week also jumped for the week, to 12,144 from 9,077 for Nov. 27.
Iowa Workforce Development communications officer Jeff Eckhoff said this past week the earlier jump in initial claims likely was related to "seasonal layoffs in road construction and other outdoor construction activity. There also were some temporary layoffs in manufacturing.“
Overall, just under 2 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment benefits the week that ended Nov. 27.
Weekly claims, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily most of the year since topping 900,000 one week in early January.
They are now below to the 220,000-a-week level typical before the coronavirus pandemic slammed the U.S. economy in March 2020.
The Labor Department Wednesday employers posted a near-record 11 million job openings in October. It also said that 4.2 million people quit their jobs — just off the September record of 4.4 million — a sign that they are confident enough in their prospects to look for something better.