US jobless claims fall to 326,000, first drop in four weeks

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FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, a server carries food for a customer at Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica, Calif. Not willing to wait for more federal help, states have been moving ahead with their own coronavirus relief packages. Maryland and California recently moved forward with help for the poor, the jobless, small businesses and those needing child care. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, another sign that the U.S. job market and economy continue their steady recovery from last year’s coronavirus recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that unemployment claims were down by 38,000 to 326,000, the first drop in four weeks. Since surpassing 900,000 in early January, the weekly applications, a proxy for layoffs, had fallen more or less steadily all year.

Still, they remain elevated from pre-pandemic levels: Before COVID-19 hammered the U.S. economy in March 2020, weekly claims were consistently coming in at around 220,000.

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