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State unemployment claims trending down

The number of Ohioans who sought unemployment assistance fell to 16,294 last week — the fourth straight week claims shrunk, yet still enormous in comparison to this time last year, according to the latest figures from the state.

Across the U.S., jobless benefit claims fell to 860,000, a historically high number that illustrates the economic damage still taking place nine months since the viral outbreak sent layoffs soaring to previously unheard of numbers.

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday U.S. jobless claims fell by 33,000 from the previous week and that 12.6 million are collecting traditional unemployment benefits, compared with just 1.7 million a year ago.

Pre-pandemic, weekly jobless aid applications never had exceeded 700,000 in the U.S. They’ve topped 700,000 for 26 consecutive weeks.

In Ohio, according to Thursday’s release from the state’s Department of Job and Family Services, the initial claims filed last week represent a 257 percent increase from for the same period in 2019, when there were 4,560 claims.

Through the last 26 weeks, jobless claims soared to more than 1.6 million; that’s more than the last four years combined.

Trumbull County had 247 new claims, pushing the pandemic total to 30,454. Mahoning County has totaled 35,596 claims since mid-March with the addition of the 319 new claims last week.

Gus Faucher, chief economist for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, said the labor market continues to heal, but unemployment remains a problem and will be for at least the next couple of years. Recent flat layoff numbers suggest the pace of the economic improvement is slowing.

“With almost 30 million people receiving some form of unemployment assistance, the labor market is still in the midst of an historic downturn … ” Faucher said. “Conditions are getting better, with total claims down from May, but tens of millions of Americans remain unemployed.”

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