More than 1.54 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the United States last week, in a new week of decline, although they add up to more than 42 million orders in just over two months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The downward trend in these claims has continued in recent weeks, pointing to a slow but steady recovery in U.S. employment.

In the previous week, 1.89 million claims had been received and the weekly figure has been declining since the week ending March 28 when there were 6.9 million claims for unemployment benefits, as more states have allowed businesses to reopen.

The four-week average of claims, a figure that offsets the weekly variations and gives a better idea of the trend, dropped to 2 million, from an average of 2.6 million the week before.

In the week ending March 21 and as the pandemic began to hit the U.S. labor market, the number of unemployment claims jumped to 3.3 million workers, and the following week it doubled to its highest number of 6.9 million claims.

The Labor Department report said today that in the week ending May 30, 20.9 million people received conventional unemployment benefits, compared to 21.2 million in the previous week.

At this point, two-thirds of the people in the workforce in the world’s largest economy are receiving more money in unemployment benefits than they are earning in wages, largely because of the additional $600 a week provided by the $2.3 trillion stimulus law passed in March.

This supplemental will end at the end of July if the Senate, with a Republican majority, does not pass and President Donald Trump does not enact a second $3 trillion stimulus package, passed by the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, extending the additional payment until January 2021.

One factor that may delay workers’ return to work, especially as summer approaches, is the shortage of childcare and the cancellation of summer camps, which prevent some parents from returning to their jobs even if businesses reopen.

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