The procession of Americans heading towards the unemployment line declined last week, and jobless claims amounted to a new low in the pandemic of 444,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The economist polled by Dow Jones had expected 452,000 new claims as the employment picture improved thanks to an accelerated economic reopening across the country.

The total was down from 478,000 the previous week.

In the same period of the previous year, the claims totaled more than 2.3 million.

While Federal Reserve officials emphasize the need to further improve the employment picture, the damage figures suggest employment is steadily growing. However, ongoing receivables increased 3.1 million to 3.75 million, an increase of 111,000. Continued claims run a week past the heading number.

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Nonetheless, the overall numbers provide for optimism after the impressive disappointment in April, when the number of non-farm employees rose by just 266,000 from an estimate of 1 million.

The rapid pace of Covid-19 vaccines has spurred the economic recovery. The US is still administering 1.8 million shots a day.

“The April job report was disappointing … But the steady decline in initial unemployment insurance claims in recent months, as well as other UI data, suggest that the April report underestimated the improvement in the labor market,” wrote PNC chief economist Gus Faucher .

Together with the steady decline in the number of headlines, the total number of beneficiaries fell by almost 900,000 to just under 16 million by May 1, according to information.

Most of the decrease was due to a decrease in those receiving benefits through pandemic-related emergency programs. Enhanced benefits that Congress approved related to the pandemic expire in September.

The states with the largest declines included Georgia (-8,216), Kentucky (-7,175), and Texas (-4,828) according to unadjusted data. New Jersey posted the largest gain at 4,384.

In other economic news, the Philadelphia Fed’s production indicator for May fell to 31.5, well below its 40.5 estimate, but still suggests solid expansion.

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