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$1,400 stimulus checks help retail sales soar; US jobless claims fall to pandemic low
breaking AP

$1,400 stimulus checks help retail sales soar; US jobless claims fall to pandemic low

  • Updated

Apr.15 -- U.S. initial jobless claims fell to 576,000 last week, the lowest since March 2020, while retail sales increased to 9.8% in March. Bloomberg’s Jonathan Ferro and Tom Keene examine the numbers.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications plummeted by 193,000 from a revised 769,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims are now down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January and well below the 700,000-plus level they had been stuck at for months.

The decline in unemployment claims coincides with other evidence that the economy is strengthening as vaccinations accelerate, pandemic business restrictions are lifted in many states and Americans appear increasingly willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise spend again. In March, employers added a healthy 916,000 jobs, the most since August, and the unemployment rate fell to 6%, less than half the pandemic peak of 14.8%.

Other healthy economic data was reported Thursday, underscoring that a potential boom, much-anticipated by economists, may be getting under way. Trillions of dollars of government stimulus, including $1,400 checks largely distributed last month, have maintained overall household income despite widespread job losses in the pandemic.

Those checks, supplemented by higher savings that many households have managed to build, drove retail sales sharply higher in March. Sales at stores, car dealers, restaurants and bars jumped 9.8%. It was the biggest gain since retail sales soared 18% in May of last year in a partial bounce-back from the virus’ initial blow.

Here's an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • Homeless Americans who have been left off priority lists for coronavirus vaccinations — or even bumped aside as states shifted eligibility to older age groups — are finally getting their shots as vaccine supplies increase.
  • A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19 and the situation remains “serious,” with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the region.
  • A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Delta Air Lines lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter but executives said Thursday that the airline could be profitable by late summer if the budding recovery in air travel continues.
  • Two officials in Japan's ruling LDP party on Thursday said changes could be coming to the Tokyo Olympics. One suggested they still could be canceled, and the other said even if they proceed, it might be without any fans.
  • India's two largest cities imposed stringent restrictions on movement and one planned to use hotels and banquet halls to treat coronavirus patients as new infections in the country shot past 200,000 Thursday.
  • France's coronavirus death toll is expected to pass 100,000 on Thursday after a year of hospital tensions, on-and-off lockdowns and personal loss that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic’s unending, devastating toll.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.

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