The number of Americans filing for initial jobless aid dropped to a crisp pandemic low last week as the country continues to recover from the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
About 473,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. That’s a five percent decrease from one week earlier and the lowest that weekly claims have hit since March 2020.
The data also revealed a slight uptick in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that expands jobless benefits to gig workers and the self-employed. Applications rose by 1,756, bringing the total number of filers to 103,571.
Thursday’s data revived predictions of a smooth path toward economic recovery after an unexpectedly wretched April jobs report showed lower-than-expected new jobs created and a small jump in the unemployment rate.
April’s data put the White House under scrutiny by Republicans, as GOP lawmakers blamed President Joe Biden’s massive stimulus bill for disincentivizing Americans to go back to work. The rescue package included $300 weekly unemployment benefits and $1,400 stimulus payments.
Biden rejected these claims on Monday, where he defended the enhanced jobless aid, arguing that other reasons are preventing people from returning to work, such as fear of exposure to Covid-19 and minimal access to child care.
But with the swift vaccine rollout, widespread stimulus and lifted virus restrictions in businesses and restaurants, consumer spending has spiked across the U.S. Job growth, however, has been unable to meet the surge in demand. Employers say that they are having a difficult time finding enough workers to meet their consumers’ needs.
While the department’s most recent data offered a fresh round of good news for the country’s economy, the number of total continued claims as of April 24 is at 16.8 million, up roughly 700,000 from the previous week.
“Even as still elevated levels of jobless claims remain a concern, other pressing issues are now competing for attention,” Mark Hamrick, a Senior Economic Analyst at Bankrate, told The Hill.
“In the very near term, there’s been a sharp rise in gasoline prices and the lack of supply in the Eastern U.S. has resulted in panic buying after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. With the reopening of the economy, prices have risen more than expected, raising worry whether the Federal Reserve might have underestimated the risks of inflation,” he added.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.