The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 444,000, a new pandemic low and a sign that the job market keeps strengthening as consumers spend freely again, viral infections drop, and business restrictions ease, per the AP. Major US stock indexes rose after the report came out, putting the markets on track to end a three-day losing streak, reports the Wall Street Journal. Thursday's report from the Labor Department coincides with moves by nearly all the nation's Republican governors to cut off a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit that they and many business executives blame for discouraging the unemployed from seeking jobs. Those cutoffs will begin in June. Jobless people have been able to receive the $300 weekly benefit on top of their regular state unemployment aid.
Thursday's data release showed that applications for unemployment benefits declined 34,000 from a revised 478,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly jobless claims—a rough measure of the pace of layoffs—has declined steadily since the year began. About 16 million people were receiving unemployment benefits during the week ending May 1, the latest period for which data is available, the government said Thursday. That's down from 16.9 million in the previous week, and it suggests that some Americans who'd been receiving aid have found jobs. In July last year, four months after the pandemic started tearing through the economy, roughly twice as many people as now—32 million—were receiving some form of unemployment benefit, though that figure was likely somewhat inflated by fraud. As recently as late February this year, about 20 million people were receiving aid.
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