States reported that 684,000 U.S. workers filed for new unemployment benefits during the week ending Mar. 20, a decrease of 97,000 after last week’s unexpected jump. Initial jobless claims have held below 800,000 for five straight weeks, but remain extraordinarily high as improvement had stalled in recent weeks. The total number of workers continuing to claim unemployment benefits dropped to 3.8 million. Economists expect the economic outlook to continue to improve as the vaccine rollout and improving weather allow hiring activity to pick up this spring and summer.
About 19 million people overall are receiving some type of unemployment aid. That includes 13.2 million people enrolled in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the self-employed and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offers an additional 24 weeks of benefits.