U.S. Unemployment Filings Fall to 198,000

U.S. Sees Lowest Jobless Claims in Over 50 Years.

More evidence that the job market remains strong in the aftermath of last year's coronavirus pandemic, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plummeted below 200,000.

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 198,000, according to the Labor Department. The four-week average decreased to just above 199,000, which is the lowest level since October 1969. The figures suggest that the fast-spreading Omicron variant has yet to produce a wave of layoffs.

Overall, around 1.7 million people were receiving regular unemployment compensation during the week ending December 18th. That was the lowest since March 2020, when the pandemic was beginning to hit the US economy and down by 140,000 from the previous week.

The weekly claim numbers, a sign of layoffs, have been declining steadily for most of the year. At a time when it's so difficult to find alternatives, employers are hesitant to let people go. The United States had a near-record 11 million job openings in October and 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs — just off from September's record 4.4 million — due to numerous available opportunities.

The job market has bounced back from the coronavirus recession, which lasted just a few months last year. When COVID struck, governments ordered lockdowns, individuals stayed at home, and many businesses closed or reduced hours. In March and April 2020, employers cut more than 22 million positions, resulting in the unemployment rate rise to 14.8 percent.

As a result of government spending and vaccine rollout, the economy rebounded. Employers have added 18.5 million jobs since April 2020, leaving the United States 3.9 million jobs short of what it had before the pandemic began. The December employment report, to be released next week, is projected to show that the economy created another 374,000 jobs in December.

The jobless rate has dropped to 4.2%, near the level that economists consider to be full employment.

“The overall picture painted by these data points to a rapid pace of job growth,'' commented Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. Hiring could have been even geater “had businesses been able to hire as many workers as they wished.''

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