US jobless claims drop to pandemic low of 267,000

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a pandemic low 267,000 last week, another sign that the job market is recovering from last year’s sharp coronavirus downturn.

Jobless claims fell by 4,000 last week, the Labor Department reported today. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly ups and downs, dropped by nearly 7,300 to 278,000, also a pandemic low.

Altogether, 2.2 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment benefits the week that ended Oct. 30.

Applications for unemployment aid have been falling mostly steadily since topping 900,000 in early January and are gradually nearing prepandemic levels of around 220,000 per week.

The job market has been rebounding for the past year and a half. In March and April of 2020, employers slashed more than 22 million jobs as governments ordered lockdowns and consumers and workers stayed home as a health precaution. Since then, employers have added more than 18 million jobs — including 531,000 last month — as the rollout of vaccines and government relief programs gave consumers the confidence and financial wherewithal to resume spending.

Now many businesses, scrambling to keep up with demand, complain they can’t find workers to fill their job openings — a near-record 10.4 million in August.

The economy is remains more than 4 million jobs short of where it stood in February 2020.