The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims dropped to 684,000 last week as the economy continued to slowly recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics figure released Thursday represented a large decrease in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending March 13, when 781,000 new jobless claims were reported. That number was revised up from the 770,000 jobless claims initially reported last week.
Roughly 19 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the report. (RELATED: Millions Of Americans Are Hungry, Behind On Rent Despite Economic Recovery, Janet Yellen Warns)
Economists expected Thursday’s jobless claims number to come in at 735,000, The Wall Street Journal reported. New jobless claims fell below 1 million in the first week of August, which was the first time the weekly claims had fallen below 1 million since March.
“There are fewer people that are losing their jobs,” Ben Ayers, a senior economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., told the WSJ. “That’s a great sign that things are starting to pick up again for the economy.”
The U.S. added 379,000 jobs in February, a positive sign that the economy is recovering, according to Department of Labor data. The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first jobs loss since April, and gained a modest 49,000 jobs in January.
The economy shrank 3.5% in 2020, according to a Jan. 28 Bureau of Economic Analysis report, the worst performance since the 1940s. However, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projected that U.S. gross domestic product would surge 6.5% in 2021.
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo met with travel and tourism industry leaders Wednesday to discuss how businesses in that sector could recover. Travel spending in 2020 dropped an unprecedented 42% compared to 2019, according to a January analysis conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, which participated in the meeting.
“I am committed to bringing a whole of Commerce approach to travel and tourism-related issues, and I look forward to engaging agencies across the Federal government in efforts to accelerate a safe recovery and ensure that we have a stronger platform for long-term growth,” Raimondo said in a statement.
Jobless claims hovered around 200,000 per week before the pandemic, according to The WSJ.
Average coronavirus cases and deaths per million have declined in the last two months, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 778 new coronavirus-related deaths and 58,922 new cases.
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