U.S. unemployment claims drop to 198,000

A total of 1.7 million Americans received traditional unemployment benefits for the week ended December 18. That was the lowest since March 2020, when the pandemic began to crash the US economy, and 140,000 fewer than the week before.

The weekly claims figures, a proxy for layoffs, have been falling steadily for most of the year. Employers are reluctant to fire workers when it is so difficult to find replacements. The United States had almost a record 11 million job openings in October, and 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs – just below the record high of 4.4 million in September – because there are so many opportunities.

The labor market has recovered from the brief but intense coronavirus recession of last year. When COVID hit, governments ordered lockdowns, consumers crouched at home, and many businesses closed or cut back hours. Employers cut more than 22 million jobs in March and April 2020 and the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.8%.

But massive government spending – and eventually the introduction of vaccines – brought the economy back. Employers have created 18.5 million jobs since April 2020, so the US was still 3.9 million jobs behind what it was before the pandemic. The December job report, due out next week, is expected to show that the economy has created another 374,000 jobs this month.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.2%, which is close to what economists call full employment.

“The overall picture these data paints suggests rapid employment growth,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at consultancy Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc. The mindset would have been even stronger “if companies had been able to do so many To hire workers ”. as they wanted. ″

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