U.S. Jobless Claims Decline for Fourth Time in Five Weeks

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance fell last week, the fourth decline over the past five weeks. In the week-ending February 19, unemployment claims dropped to a seasonally adjusted 232,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 249,000 claims. The most recent filings were slightly less than the roughly 235,000 initial claims economists were projecting but were above the average of less than 220,000 claims filed per week in the year leading up to the pandemic. The four-week average, which smooths out changes from week to week, decreased by 7,250 last week to 236,250. This was the third straight week of declines after rising for five straight weeks amid the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, peaked at more than 6.1 million at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and have been generally trending down since then. Late last year, jobless claims fell below pre-pandemic levels amid a tight labor market. Thus far during the pandemic, nearly 94.5 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.