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Few Americans file for jobless claims amid tight labor market

U.S. adds 678,000 jobs in February
U.S. adds 678,000 jobs in February 05:39

The number of Americans filing for jobless aid ticked up last week but stayed at historically low levels, showing the labor market remains tight.

Some 202,000 people applied for first-time jobless aid in the week ending March 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's an increase of 14,000 from the previous week's number, which was the lowest weekly figure since 1969.

In total, 1.3 million Americans were collecting jobless aid for the week ending March 19, the lowest number since December 1969.

Economists watch the weekly jobless claims closely since they generally track the course of layoffs. With the job market remaining extremely competitive, most employers are loath to let go of their existing workforce.

Last week's figure "is still a low level of claims consistent with extremely tight labor market conditions," Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a report. "We expect initial claims to remain around 200k or lower as employers, who continue to struggle to attract and retain workers, are likely to keep layoffs to a minimum."

Employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July, while the unemployment rate dropped to a pandemic low of 3.8%. The new-jobs numbers for March are released Friday. 

Meanwhile, job openings hovered at a near-record level in February, little changed from the previous month, continuing a trend that Federal Reserve officials see as a major driver of inflation. There were 11.3 million available jobs last month, matching January's figure and just below December's record of 11.4 million, according to the Labor Department, and the number of workers quitting their jobs hovered near record levels.

A separate report from the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas found that announced job cuts for March were 30% below their level of last year.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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