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Layoffs drop to pandemic-era low as economy continues to recover

The last time jobless claims were this low, the effects of the pandemic hadn't even reached the United States yet.
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A person files an application for unemployment benefits on April 16, 2020, in Arlington, Va.Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images file

After months of hit-or-miss progress on weekly unemployment claims in the early part of 2021, CNBC reported this morning on the new report from the Labor Department, which offers the best news on layoffs we've seen in a long while.

First-time filings for unemployment insurance hit a new pandemic-era low last week, a sign that the jobs market is improving heading into the fall. Jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 14 totaled 348,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.... The last time claims were this low was March 14, 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic declaration hit and sent the U.S. economy spiraling into its deepest but briefest recession on record.

As we've discussed, it was in March 2020 when jobless claims first spiked in response to the COVID-19 crisis, climbing to over 3 million. That weekly total soon after reached nearly 7 million as the economy cratered. For 55 consecutive weeks, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was worse than at any time during the Great Recession.

All of that appears to be behind us. Looking at today's report, we haven't seen data this good since before the pandemic began in earnest.

To be sure, it'd be a mistake to see 348,000 jobless claims as good news on its own. Under normal circumstances, this would be an awful total. In the early months of 2020, for example, the U.S. average on unemployment claims was roughly 211,000 -- well below the total from today's report.

But given what Americans have been dealing with throughout the pandemic, these new figures are worth feeling good about.

What's more, as layoffs drop to a 17-month low, job growth has soared over the summer; U.S. factory production is strong; and the domestic economy is currently on pace to grow faster than China's economy for the first time in more than three decades.

It was just a couple of months ago when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) insisted that President Biden's economic policies "have stalled our recovery," adding, "Bidenomics is bad for America."

There's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.