The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to 473,000, a new low since the pandemic began impacting the U.S. workforce last March.
Today’s report from the Labor Department showed that the number of weekly jobless claims has dropped significantly from a peak of 900,000 in January as more businesses have reopened and consumers have ramped up spending.
The new figures were good news for the White House after a worse-than-expected April jobs report led GOP governors to blame the extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits paid for by the federal government as the reason businesses haven’t been able to staff up more quickly. The expanded unemployment benefits were included in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus measure approved in March and are not set to expire until the week of Sept. 6.
The White House pushed back on that criticism this week, saying there are other variables affecting individuals’ decisions to re-enter the workforce, including lingering concerns about COVID-19 and childcare costs.
“We don’t see much evidence that the extra unemployment insurance is a major driver in people not rejoining the workforce,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “There are other factors – bigger factors – that have been contributing to the numbers we saw [last week].”