Last week’s winter storms added salt to the wounds of the coronavirus pandemic for many Americans, but weekly unemployment claims fell more than economists expected. The winter storms could have prevented some people from filing claims, and if they did, state governments may have found it difficult to process them. During the week-ending February 20 (the most recent reporting period), a total of 730,000 Americans filed initial jobless claims, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Economists had expected initial jobless claims of 838,000 last week, so the recent numbers were 108,000 filings lower than projected. Last week’s claims were the lowest level seen since the end of November 2020 and a decrease of 111,000 filings from the previous week, which was revised down by 20,000, from 861,000 to 841,000 claims. Even with the deeper than expected decline, claims are still way above pre-pandemic levels which averaged just over 200,000 each week. Total unemployment claims since the start of the pandemic now exceed 79.6 million.