The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell to the lowest number since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Labor Department.
Data released Thursday showed 684,000 Americans filed first-time jobless claims in the week ended March 20. Analysts surveyed by Refintiv were expecting 730,000 filings. The prior week’s reading was revised up by 11,000 to 781,000. Continuing claims, or the number of Americans who continued receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 3.87 million for the week ended March 13, down from an upwardly revised 4.134 million the previous week.
The drop in claims occurred during the same week that President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that extended a $300 per week unemployment supplement until Sept. 6. The plan also sent $1,400 checks to most Americans and $350 billion to state and local governments, among other things.
Improved jobless claims weren't the only sign of a U.S. economy on the mend.
Fourth-quarter gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 4.3%, according to a third estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting growth to remain at 4.1% as calculated by the second estimate. The upward revision was primarily due to an increase in private inventory investment, which was partly offset by a downward revision to nonresidential fixed investment.