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More Americans apply for benefits; layoffs still low

WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but layoffs remain at historic lows.

Jobless claims rose by 14,000 to 202,000 for the week ending March 26, the United States (US) Labor Department reported on Thursday. The previous week’s tally of 188,000 claims was the fewest since 1969. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell to 208,500 from 212,000 the previous week. In total, 1,307,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid for the week ending March 19, the fewest since December 1969.

Employers added a robust 678,000 jobs in February, according to recent government data.

The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 per cent, from four per cent in January, extending a sharp decline in joblessness to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.

The number of Americans quitting their jobs was also historically high, at 4.4 million. More than 4.5 million people quit in November.