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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 340,000 — a pandemic low and another sign that the job market is steadily rebounding from the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jobless claims dropped by 14,000, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday. The weekly count has mostly fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January.
Vaccinations for COVID-19 have been supporting the job market by encouraging businesses to reopen or expand hours and consumers to return to restaurants, bars and shops.
In response, employers across the country have been boosting hiring to meet a surge in consumer demand. Still, a resurgence of cases tied to the highly contagious delta variant has clouded the economic outlook.
In Iowa, new claims increased from 1,677 to 1,751, marking the second consecutive increase. Continuing claims decreased, though, for the sixth consecutive week — from 14,928 to 13,501.
Manufacturing was the largest source of new claims in the state, with 363, followed by self-employed and independent contractors with 257, construction with 242, and retail trade with 138.
New claims decreased in Linn County from 152 to 131, but Johnson County saw new claims rise from 60 to 67.
The national job market has been rebounding since the pandemic paralyzed economic activity last year and employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April 2020.
The nation has since recovered 16.7 million jobs, and economists have estimated Friday’s jobs report for August will show that employers added 750,000 more last month.
Posted job openings — a record 10.1 million in June — have been rising faster than applicants have lined up to fill them.
A $300-a-week federal benefit, which was made available to the unemployed on top of their regular state jobless aid after the pandemic hit, will expire Monday. Twenty-five states, seeking to push the jobless back to work, already have halted the benefit.
In a report last week, economists Peter McCrory and Daniel Silver of J.P. Morgan found “zero correlation″ between job growth and state decisions to drop the federal unemployment aid, at least so far. They warn that the loss of income from a cutoff of unemployment checks “could itself lead to job losses, potentially offsetting any gain″ from encouraging more people to go back to work.