U.S. Unemployment Number Hits 50-Year Low at 1.4 Million

More than 1.4 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits in the week that ended March 5, a 50-year low as the U.S. job market continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1,419,000 who were getting jobless aid represent a 71,000 drop from the week before, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. In the week ending March 12, the number of claims for unemployment aid dropped from 229,000 in the previous week to 214,000.

The 50-year low in the number of Americans collecting jobless benefits is the latest indication of an economic recovery following the pandemic-driven recession, the Associated Press reported. The Labor Department reported earlier this month that employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly gain since July. In another sign of progress, the unemployment rate dropped in February from 4 percent to 3.8 percent, the lowest figure since pre-pandemic levels.

"Today we learned that the number of new unemployment claims is now lower than it was before the pandemic in 2019. Our labor market is strong," President Joe Biden tweeted Thursday.

Unemployment Rate
Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, as layoffs continue to decline amid a strong job market rebound. Above, Marriott human resources recruiter Mariela Cuevas, left, talks to Lisbet Oliveros during a job fair on September 3, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

The number of first-time unemployment aid applications in a given period can track how quickly Americans are being laid off, according to the AP. The Labor Department's report for the week ending March 12 shows that the four-week average for jobless claims dropped from 231,750 in the previous week to 223,000.

The number of unemployment claims, as well as the number of people collecting unemployment benefits, only partially reflects the current status of the job market.

Businesses and companies in the U.S. posted a near-record 11.3 million job openings in January. The soaring number of openings has led to companies offering benefits like higher pay in an effort to attract workers, but this has also helped push inflation even higher as companies raise prices to account for the change, the AP said.

Last week, a Labor Department report showed that the consumer inflation rate increased to 7.9 percent in the 12 months that ended in February, the biggest boost in 40 years. And on Tuesday, the department said wholesale inflation, which tracks prices before they hit consumers, jumped 10 percent in February compared with a year earlier.

After Americans quit their jobs in high numbers last year, the number of resignations went down in January, but the rate was still higher than figures from before the pandemic.

A White House official told Newsweek last week that when someone leaves a job, it doesn't mean the employee is leaving the workforce altogether. An economy where companies have to offer better pay and benefits to compete for workers "is the kind of economy the president has set out to achieve since his first day in office," the official said.

Update 03/17/22, 1:40 p.m. ET: This story was updated with a remark tweeted by President Joe Biden.