The number of workers seeking and receiving unemployment benefits through state and federal programs has reached pandemic lows. A move by Republican-led states to end a $300 federal benefit early will likely further reduce benefits totals this summer.

Initial unemployment claims through regular state programs dropped to 444,000 last week, marking a new low level since the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020.

The number of people claiming benefits through state and pandemic-related programs also declined in the week ended May 1 to a pandemic low of 16 million people from 16.9 million a week earlier, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That includes benefits through one of several programs, including regular state aid and federal emergency programs put in place in response to the pandemic.

U.S. stocks rose Thursday after release of the jobless claims data showed layoffs further easing in the labor market, putting major indexes on track to snap a three-day losing streak.

Though jobless claims are on a downward trend, April’s job gain of 266,000 fell far short of the one million economists had forecast, fueling concerns about the recovery. Republicans also are concerned that enhanced federal unemployment payments are discouraging people from seeking work.


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