Reported U.S. Layoffs in April Drop to New Record Low of 1.4 Million

Layoffs in April dropped to a new record low of 1.4 million, according to a U.S. Labor Department report released Thursday.

The level of layoffs has not been this low since records from 2000. The decline also coincides with a decrease in Americans applying for unemployment benefits for the sixth week in a row as the economy rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic.

"As life normalizes and the service sector continues to gain momentum, we expect initial jobless claims to continue to trend lower," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at economic and financial consulting company Maria Fiorini Ramirez, according to the Associated Press.

During the week ending May 29, nearly 3.5 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits from their state, compared with 3.8 million the week before, a drop of 258,000 people.

Now Hiring Sign in California
A sign outside of a Lamps Plus store in San Francisco on June 3. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 376,000 from 385,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of people signing up for benefits exceeded 900,000 in early January and has fallen more or less steadily ever since. Still, claims are high by historic standards. Before the pandemic brought economic activity to a near-standstill in March 2020, weekly applications were regularly coming in below 220,000.

Businesses are reopening rapidly as the rollout of vaccines allows Americans to feel more comfortable returning to restaurants, bars and shops. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that job openings hit a record 9.3 million in April. 4 million quit their jobs in April, another record and a sign that Americans are confident enough in their prospects to try something new.

In May, the U.S. economy generated 559,000 million new jobs, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% from 6.1% in April. Many economists expected to see even faster job growth. The United States is still short 7.6 million jobs from where it stood in February 2020.

But employers are posting vacancies faster than would-be applicants can fill them. Many Americans are contending with health and childcare issues related to COVID-19 and with career uncertainty after the coronavirus recession wiped out many jobs for good. Some are taking their time looking for work because expanded federal jobless benefits pay more than their old jobs.

Many states are scheduled to begin dropping the federal benefits this month. Altogether, 15.3 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid the week of May 22. A year earlier, the number exceeded 30 million.

Supervisor at Great Southern Industries in Mississippi
Rob Bondurant, a supervisor at Great Southern Industries, a packaging company, loads up a finishing machine in the Jackson, Mississippi, facility on May 28. A lack of workers has forced some supervisors to assume additional duties. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo