Jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 214,000 for the week ending March 12, down from the previous week’s 229,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs.
The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell to 223,000 from the previous week’s 231,750.
Such benefit reached a record 6.8 million in the last week of March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic hit US labor market, but slowly dwindled with ups and downs, approaching 200,000 applications by the end of December.
The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, from 4% in January, extending a sharp decline in joblessness to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.
Earlier this month, the government reported that employers added a robust 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July.
U.S. businesses posted a near-record level of open jobs in January — 11.3 million — a trend has helped pad workers’ pay and added to inflationary pressures.
The Federal Reserve launched a high-risk effort Wednesday to tame the worst inflation since the early 1980s, raising its benchmark short-term interest rate and signaling up to six additional rate hikes this year.