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Fewer Americans collecting unemployment than any time since 1970

Fewer Americans are collecting unemployment benefits than at any time in the last half-century, according to federal government data. The number of jobless claims dropped by 17,000 to 232,000 for the week ending on Feb. 19, the Department of Labor said. That’s the lowest number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits since 1970. It was also the third consecutive week of reported declines in jobless claims, according to the federal government. The drop in jobless claims offers a rare bit of good news as employers appear confident in long-term growth and are eager to hire, though they of course were released before Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and any possible ripple effects to be felt in the global economy, which could filter down into everyday American life. A growing number of Americans claimed unemployment benefits in the preceding five weeks as the spread of the Omicron variant derailed economic recovery from the recession brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell by 7,250 to 236,250. In total, 1,476,000 Americans received unemployment benefits for the week that ended Feb. 5, a decrease of about 112,000 from the previous week and the lowest level since March 14, 1970, the Department of Labor said. Massive government spending and the vaccine rollout jumpstarted the economy as employers added a record 6.4 million jobs last year. The US economy expanded 5.7% in 2021, growing last year at the fastest annual pace since a 7.2% surge in 1984, also coming after a recession. Inflation is also at a 40-year high — 7.5% year-over-year — leading the Federal Reserve to ease its monetary support for the economy. The Fed has signaled that it would begin a series of interest-rate hikes in March, reversing pandemic-era policies that fueled hiring and growth. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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