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The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week for a fourth straight time to a pandemic low — the latest sign that America's job market is rebounding from the pandemic recession as employers boost hiring to meet a surge in consumer demand.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that jobless claims declined by 29,000, to 348,000.
The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also dropped — by 19,000, to just below 378,000, also a pandemic low.
The weekly pace of applications for unemployment aid has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January.
The dwindling number of first-time jobless claims has coincided with the widespread administering of vaccines, which has led businesses to reopen or expand their hours and drawn consumers back to shops, restaurants, airports and entertainment venues.
Still, the number of applications remains high by historic standards: Before the pandemic tore through the economy in March 2020, the weekly pace amounted to around 220,000 a week.
And now there is growing concern that the highly contagious Delta variant could disrupt the economy's recovery from last year's brief but intense recession.
Some economists already have begun to mark down their estimates for growth this quarter as some measures of economic activity, such as air travel, have started to weaken.
In Iowa, there were 1,744 new claims for jobless benefits reported by Iowa Workforce Development on Thursday. IWD recorded 16,285 continuing claims, a drop from the week before’s figure of 16,708.
Linn County noted 139 new claims for the week — 66 fewer than the previous week. Johnson County reported 61 new claims — also a drop, of 27.
By all accounts, the job market has been rebounding with vigor since the pandemic paralyzed economic activity last year and employers slashed more than 22 million jobs.
The United States since has recovered 16.7 million jobs. And employers have added a rising number of jobs for three straight months, including a robust 943,000 in July.
In the meantime, employers have posted a record 10.1 million openings, and many complain that they can’t find enough applicants to fill their open positions.