The number of claims for unemployment benefits decreased in the United States again last week but remained in the same relatively narrow range it has been in for more than two months, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The government said 375,000 jobless workers filed for compensation, down 12,000 from the revised figure the week before.
The weekly number of new claims, which roughly correlate to recent layoffs, has ranged from 368,000 to 424,000 since late May, still substantially higher than the 218,000 figure in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the United States and severely disrupted the world’s biggest economy.
In July, the U.S. added 943,000 jobs, which President Joe Biden said Wednesday was the seventh biggest month of job creation in U.S. history and followed 938,000 new jobs in June. The unemployment rate has now dropped to 5.4%, still a couple percentage points higher than before the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
In all, the U.S. lost about 22 million jobs in the early months of the pandemic and now has recovered 16.7 million of them.
The U.S. says its economy advanced at an annualized 6.5% rate in the April-to-June period, a slightly faster pace than in the first three months of the year.
The size of the U.S. economy — nearly $23 trillion — now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago.
But the surging delta variant of the coronavirus is now threatening to impair business activity in some regions of the U.S.
The second quarter growth was fueled with widespread business reopenings, vaccinations for millions of people and trillions of dollars in government pandemic aid that was sent to all but the wealthiest American families.
The weekly unemployment benefit claims total has tracked unevenly in recent weeks, but overall has fallen by more than 40% since early April, while remaining well above the pre-pandemic levels.
Some employers are offering new hires cash bonuses to take jobs as the economy rebounds and consumers are willing to spend.
State governors and municipal officials across the U.S. have been ending coronavirus restrictions, in many cases allowing businesses for the first time in a year to completely reopen to customers. That could lead to more hiring of workers.
The number of new coronavirus infections recorded each day has increased by tens of thousands in recent weeks and growing, especially in parts of the U.S. where millions of people have resisted getting vaccinated.
Political disputes have erupted in numerous states where conservative Republican governors have resisted imposing mandatory face mask and vaccination rules at schools and businesses. Some education and municipal leaders are advocating for tougher rules to try to prevent the spread of the variant.
The number of new vaccinations had been falling in the U.S. but is now increasing as more people see others in their communities hospitalized from the virus and their lives endangered.
More than 61% of U.S. adults have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.