Labor Market

Prospective employers and job seekers interact during a job fair on Sept. 22, 2021, in the West Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Hiring in California slowed significantly in November 2021 even as the state’s unemployment rate dipped below 7% for the first time since March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, according to data made public Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 200,000, more evidence that the job market remains strong in the aftermath of last year’s coronavirus recession, according to an Associated Press report.

Jobless claims dropped by 8,000 to 198,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday (Dec. 29). The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell to just above 199,000, the lowest level since October 1969.

The numbers suggest that the fast-spreading omicron variant has yet to trigger a wave of layoffs.

Altogether, 1.7 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment aid the week that ended Dec. 18, the lowest since March 2020 and down by 140,000 from the week before.

The weekly claims numbers, a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily most of the year. Employers are reluctant to let workers go at a time when it’s so tough to find replacements. The United States had a near-record 11 million job openings in October, and 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs — just off September’s record 4.4 million — because there are so many opportunities.

Click here to reads the full Associated Press report.