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How many Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in February?

Weekly unemployment figures in the United States dipped last month but overall numbers remain higher than before the Coroinavirus pandemic.

How many Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in February?
VIEW pressCorbis via Getty Images

There was some positive news concerning the US jobs market as weekly unemployment benefits claims were slightly lower than forecast. That however, is where the good news ends. The overall unemployment rate remains steady at 6.7% - almost double the level it was before the Coronavirus pandemic and analysts expect little improvement. In February 2020, the unemployment rate in the US stood at 3.5% - that means that around 10 million people lost their jobs during the past 12 months as a result of the pandemic.

The Department of Labor announced today that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped to 779,000 – down from 812,000 the previous week and the third week in a row in which the numbers have descended. Those figures were a modest improvement on the initial forecast of 830,000 predicted by the Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. In December, out of the 389 metropolitan areas, a total of 51 areas had jobless rates of less than 4% and 20 areas had rates of at least 10%. The total number of people receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits or compensation from state and federal programmes was an unadjusted 17.8 million as of 16 January.

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Unemployment figures vary across the US

The largest over-the-year decrease in employment among the metropolitan divisions occurred in New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ (-772,600), followed by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA (-419,100), and Chicago- Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL (-284,800).

In December, El Centro, California, had the highest unemployment rate - 17.7%. Meanwhile Ames, Iowa, had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.1%. A total of 265 areas had unemployment rates below the national figure of 6.7%, 114 areas had rates above it, and 10 areas had the same rate as the national figure. The employment situation is expected to improve moderately. Back in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected employment to grow by around 6 million jobs over the course of the next decade - an annual growth rate of 0.4%. The BLS is due to publish its monthly news report and Covid-19 impact summary tomorrow morning and analysts are expecting the data for January to be better than expected.

According to predictions made by Statista and the Federal Reserve, the US jobless rate could start to drop over the course of the next few months although much will depend on how effective the coronavirus vaccination programme is. Taking into account the most optimistic outlook, the Fed expects the unemployment rate to be back down to just below 4% by 2023.


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