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Jobless claims fall in Washington, nation and Spokane County

UPDATED: Thu., July 29, 2021

A hiring sign is shown in Downers Grove, Ill., Thursday, June 24, 2021. Wages and salaries rose at a healthy pace in the three months ended in June.  (Associated Press)
A hiring sign is shown in Downers Grove, Ill., Thursday, June 24, 2021. Wages and salaries rose at a healthy pace in the three months ended in June. (Associated Press)
From staff </p><p>and wire reports Associated Press

From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits slid last week, another sign the job market continues to recover rapidly from the coronavirus recession.

Jobless claims dropped by 24,000 to 400,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The same trend continued both in Washington and Spokane County, according to data from the Washington state Department of Employment Security.

Laid-off workers in the county filed 259 new claims during the week ending July 24, compared with 288 claims filed the week before, the department reported Thursday.

The number of new claims filed in the county last week reached its lowest point since before the pandemic began in March 2020.

New unemployment claims in the state dropped to 4,554 in the week ending July 24, a 10% decrease in applications compared with 5,061 from the week before, according to the ESD.

Decreases in layoffs in the construction, and health care and social assistance sectors contributed to the drop in new state claims last week.

Across the nation, the weekly applications have fallen more or less steadily this year – from a peak of 904,000 in early January.

But they remain high by historic standards: Before COVID struck the United States in March 2020, claims were coming in at about 220,000 a week.

The job market and overall economy have been recovering from the collapse of the spring of 2020.

The rollout of vaccines this year has encouraged businesses to reopen or expand their hours and sent cooped-up consumers back out to visit restaurants, bars and shops.Still the health crisis isn’t over. COVID-19 cases are ticking up as the highly contagious delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated.

The United States is reporting an average of more than 50,000 new cases a day, up from fewer than 12,000 a day in late June.

The increase in cases could have economic consequences if governments decide to restrict business activity again or if consumers choose to stay at home as a precaution.

For now, though, the economy is so strong that many businesses say they can’t find workers.

Employers posted a record 9.2 million job openings in May, advertising vacancies faster than applicants can fill them.

Responding to complaints of a labor shortage, 22 states have decided to end a $300-a-week federal employment benefits meant to cushion the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Twenty states have dropped out of two other federal programs – one of which provides benefits to the self-employed and gig workers and another that serves those who have been out of work for six months or longer.

The expanded programs are scheduled to expire nationwide Sept. 6.

Overall, 13.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid the week of July 10, down from 31.9 million a year ago.

“Beyond weekly ups and downs, the trend in total filings should remain downward over coming weeks,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research report.

“Overall, job growth should pick up and labor shortages should ease as near-term constraints – virus concerns, child care issues and enhanced unemployment benefits – diminish,” Farooqi continued. “But rising virus cases could be a headwind for the labor market and the economy.’’

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