About 3 million people who lost jobs during the COVID pandemic have stopped looking, new labor data shows.
The worrisome Labor Department report Thursday came as the department reported the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began — a sign the job market is improving even as hiring slowed.
Unemployment claims dropped 36,000 to 293,000 last week, the second straight drop, the Labor Department said —the smallest number of people to apply for benefits since the week of March 14, 2020.
Yet businesses are still struggling to find workers, with about 3 million people who work have stopped looking, the department found, the Associated Press reported.
Economists had hoped more people would find work in September as schools reopened, easing child care constraints, and as enhanced unemployment aide ended.
But the pickup didn't happen, Labor Department statistic show.
Employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department’s jobs report found last week.
The department also noted while unemployment sank in September to 4.8%, it was fueled in part because about 180,000 fewer people looked for work, which meant they weren’t counted as unemployed. The proportion of women working or looking for work also fell in September, the AP noted.
Two emergency jobless aid programs have ended now ended, and more than 7 million Americans lost weekly financial support when they expired Sept. 6. An extra $300 in federal jobless aid also expired that week, the AP reported.
Many business executives and GOP politicians argued the extra $300 was discouraging those out of work from taking jobs. In about half the states, the additional checks were cutoff as early as mid-June, and those states have not seen faster job growth than states that kept the benefits, the AP reported.
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