U.S. jobless claims rise but still historically low at 206,000

<p><p>WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week despite signs that the U.S. labor market is rebounding from last year’s coronavirus recession.</p></p><p><p>Jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 206,000, still low by historical standards.</p></p><p><p>The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell by 16,000 to less than 204,000, the lowest level since mid-November 1969 when the American job market was less than half the size it is now, according to Department of Labor figures released Thursday.</p></p><p><p>Altogether, 1.8 million Americans were receiving traditional jobless benefits the week that ended Dec. 4, down by 154,000 from the previous week.</p></p><p><p>Weekly claims, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily most of the year since topping 900,000 one week in early January.</p></p><p><p>They are now below the 220,000-a-week level typical before the coronavirus pandemic slammed the U.S. economy in March 2020; COVID-19 forced consumers to stay home as health precaution and businesses to close or reduce hours and to lay off staff.</p></p><p><p>In March and April last year, employers shed a staggering 22.4 million jobs.</p></p><p><p>Massive government aid and the rollout of vaccines helped revive the economy and the job market by giving Americans the confidence and savings to go on a shopping spree, often online, for goods such as lawn furniture and coffee makers.</p></p><p><p>Since April last year, the United States has regained nearly 18.5 million jobs.</p></p><p><p>But the economy is still 3.9 million jobs short of where it stood in February 2020, and COVID variants like omicron pose a risk to the recovery.</p></p><p><p>Employers added a disappointing 210,000 jobs last month.</p></p><p><p>But the November jobs report also showed the unemployment rate dropped to a pandemic low of 4.2% from 4.6% in October.</p></p><p><p>Businesses and other employers posted a near-record 11 million job openings in October.</p></p><p><p>And 4.2 million people quit their jobs – just off the September record of 4.4 million – a sign that they are confident enough in their prospects to look for something better.</p></p><p><p>“Demand for labor is very strong and workers are in short supply, so layoffs are very low,” Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, said in a research note.</p></p><p><p>“Those workers who do find themselves unemployed can quickly find new jobs,” Faucher added. “The biggest problem for the labor market right now is too few workers.”</p></p>