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Number of Americans filing unemployment benefits Last week fell to a low of more than half a century, the latest sign the labor market is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures released Wednesday by the Labor Department showed unemployment applications for the week ended November 20 fell to 199,000 from a revised 270,000 last week, easily topping Refinitiv analysts’ 260,000 forecasts. it is unclear

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This marked the best level of jobless claims since November 15, 1969, when there were 197,000 applicants, and has fallen below the February 2020 pre-pandemic average of 211,700.

While it’s not clear what caused the surprise drop, economists said it could be evidence that employers – facing an incredibly tight labor market – are curbing layoffs and retaining those workers. Those who already have a record number of employees quit their jobs. The pursuit of more money and more flexibility.

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“Layoffs are hitting new lows amid ongoing labor shortages as employers seek to hold on to hard-working workers,” Glassdoor chief economist Daniel Zhao wrote on Twitter. (Zhao also cautioned about making historical comparisons using jobless claims data because of changes in unemployment insurance programs over time with respect to eligibility and other factors).

The Labor Department reported earlier this month that there were 10.4 million open jobs at the end of September. Although little has changed since late August, it is still a staggeringly high figure; There are nearly 3 million more open jobs than unemployed Americans looking for work.

Still, seasonal adjustments seem to play some sort of role in the better-than-expected reading: The total number of unadjusted claims stands at 258,622 – a 7.6% increase over the previous week.

“The steep decline in weekly jobless claims causes seasonal adjustment noise, especially given the unreasonable number of 18,000,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Especially with the rise in COVID-19 cases, a decline of seven times the recent average is highly unlikely.”

A separate economic report released Wednesday morning by the Commerce Department showed GDP growth in the second quarter was slightly revised up to 2.1%. This was below Refinitiv’s estimate for 2.2%.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.