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As the number of employees receiving unemployment benefits, as well as applying for them, continue to decrease, the U.S. labor market pushes past the pandemic’s worst economic consequences, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Since March’s spike of unemployment claims, numbers have continued to trickle down, and now first-time initial claims are below 2 million a week.

Lead economist at Oxford Economics, Nancy Vanden Houten said, “The ongoing retreat in the level of initial claims is welcome news. We still expect the recovery in the labor market to be painfully slow.”

Yet, the economy’s full recovery will most likely take years, and as protests over George Floyd’s death hit the U.S. in every state, postponed business reopenings will also stall the economy’s rebound. The unemployment rate is predicted to hit 19.5 percent in May, an increase from April’s 14.7 percent. The record rate, since 1948, will be confirmed in a May report on Friday. Thursday’s report provided hope as 36 states reported a falling number of applications for unemployment benefits.

Houten added, “That suggests maybe we’re starting to see a bit of rehiring taking place as lockdown restrictions are eased.”

As state labor departments transferred staff from various departments to handle excess unemployment inquiries, hours worked dropped at a revised seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6 percent in the first quarter.

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