US unemployment claims fall to a pandemic low of 498,000

Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed that applications declined 92,000 from a revised 590,000 a week earlier.

May 06, 2021 / 06:31 PM IST
Representative image | PC-Reuters

Representative image | PC-Reuters

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago and a sign of the job market's growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed that applications declined 92,000 from a revised 590,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly jobless claims a rough measure of the pace of layoffs has declined significantly from a peak of 900,000 in January as employers have ramped up hiring.

New US unemployment claims spike back above 700,000: Govt

At the same time, the pace of applications is still well above the roughly 230,000 level that prevailed before the viral outbreak tore through the economy in March of last year.

As vaccinations have been more widely administered, restrictions on businesses have gradually lifted and consumers have become more willing to travel, shop and dine out, stronger spending has boosted hiring, slowed layoffs and accelerated growth. The economy grew last quarter at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate, with expectations that the current quarter will be even better.

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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In March, employers added nearly 1 million jobs, the most since August. Roughly the same number is expected to be reported Friday when the government issues the jobs report for April. Even so, the economy will still be more than 7 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.
Associated Press

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