Washington – The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits plummeted last week to its lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the American job market is recovering rapidly from last year’s recession caused by the coronavirus.

Requests for aid fell from 71,000 to 199,000, the lowest level since mid-November 1969, but seasonal adjustments related to the Thanksgiving holiday contributed significantly to a larger-than-expected drop. Without adjusting, requests actually increased by more than 18,000 to almost 259,000.

The average number of requests for assistance over four weeks, a figure that smoothes out the weekly ups and downs, also fell, by 21,000 to just over 252,000, the lowest number since mid-March 2020, when the pandemic hit the economy.

Since applications surpassed 900,000 in early January, they have been steadily declining and are now below their pre-pandemic level of around 220,000 per week. Unemployment assistance applications are a barometer of layoffs.

Some 2 million Americans were cashing traditional unemployment checks the week ending Nov. 13, slightly less than the week before.

“In general, persistent volatility is expected in the main figures, but the trend continues to decline very slowly,” according to the firm Contingent Macro Advisors in a research note.

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