Jobless claims reached their lowest level of the pandemic last week as stronger hiring and consumer spending drive a U.S. economic revival.
Worker filings for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 684,000 last week from 781,000 a week earlier. Claims are now at the lowest point since mid-March of last year, before lockdowns triggered millions of layoffs. They are also below the pre-pandemic high of 695,000, a threshold not crossed for 52 weeks.
“The recovery is really hitting full steam again, and all of the conditions will be in place for a real, explosive liftoff in the summer when hopefully we’ve reached a higher vaccination threshold,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at jobs site ZipRecruiter.
The four-week average for jobless claims, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, also fell to a pandemic low of 736,000.
Widespread vaccinations, easing business restrictions and government stimulus are helping spur the early stages of an economic boom. Americans are ramping up spending on in-person services such as restaurants, gyms, hotels and salons that were battered by the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 6.2%.