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Jobless claims tumble in another sign the labor market is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 498,000.

That was a drop of nearly 100,000 from the previous week and below the 527,000 Dow Jones estimate.

While the jobs market still has a long way to go before it fully heals from the pandemic damage, improvement has accelerated in recent weeks as restrictions on activity continue to be lifted.

Though the pace has eased lately, the U.S. is still vaccinating more than 2 million people a day and soon will have half the population with at least one shot.

The claims decline comes a day before the Labor Department releases its nonfarm payroll count for April. Economists expect that the economy added another 1 million jobs during the month, with hiring likely to be the quickest in the hospitality sector, which sustained the worst of the pandemic-related damage.

However, continuing claims actually ticked higher last week, rising 37,000 to just below 3.7 million. The four-week moving average for claims edged down to 3.68 million, the lowest since March 28, 2020, just as mass layoffs were beginning to combat the spreading Covid 19 virus.

Jeff Cox CNBC

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