US jobless claims fall to lowest mark since pandemic began 

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to 547,000, a new low since the pandemic struck and a further encouraging sign that layoffs are slowing on the strength of an improving job market.

The Labor Department said this morning that applications declined 39,000 from a revised 586,000 a week earlier. Weekly jobless claims are down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January. At the same time, they’re still far above the roughly 250,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak ripped through the economy in March of last year.

About 17.4 million people were continuing to collect unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 3, the latest period for which data is available, up from 16.9 million in the previous week.

The overall job market is making steady gains. Last month, the nation’s employers added 916,000 jobs, the most since August, in a sign that a sustained recovery is taking hold. The unemployment rate fell from 6.2% to 6%, well below the pandemic peak of nearly 15%.

Yet the still-high number of ongoing recipients shows that even as the economy has strengthened in recent weeks, millions of people—disproportionately low-income workers and people of color—continue to endure a loss of a job or income and have struggled to pay bills or rent. See the report.