US jobless claims fall to lowest level since start of pandemic; CDC tracking uptick in cases

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 684,000, the fewest since the pandemic erupted a year ago and a sign that the economy is improving.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims fell from 781,000 the week before. It is the first time that weekly applications for jobless aid have fallen below 700,000 since mid-March of last year. Before the pandemic tore through the economy, applications had never topped that level.

Still, a total of 18.9 million people are continuing to collect jobless benefits, up from 18.2 million in the previous week. Roughly one-third of those recipients are in extended federal aid programs, which means they’ve been unemployed for at least six months. Read more:

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

  • The White House announced Thursday that it is dedicating another $10 billion to try to drive up vaccination rates in low-income, minority and rural enclaves throughout the country.
  • European Union leaders are meeting to look for ways to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations across the 27-nation region amid a shortage of doses.
  • A team of international and Chinese scientists is poised to report on its joint search for the origins of the coronavirus that sparked a pandemic after it was first detected in China over a year ago — with four theories being considered, and one the clear frontrunner, according to experts.
  • AstraZeneca insists that its COVID-19 vaccine is strongly effective even after counting additional illnesses in its U.S. study, the latest in an extraordinary public dispute with American officials.
  • As Americans slowly return to flying, airlines are dropping some of the changes they made early in the pandemic.

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

Virus by the numbers