Weekly unemployment claims fell to 860,000 last week, compared to 893,000 the previous week, as the reopening of economic activity affected by the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

In the week ending September 5, according to the government, there were 12.6 million people receiving that conventional benefit, compared to 13.5 million in the previous week.

The average number of requests in four weeks, a measure that compensates for the weekly variations, reached 912,000 requests last Saturday, compared to 973,000 a week before.

These requests, which had reached a record 6.8 million in the last week of March, declined sharply until mid-August and since then, the decline has been small, an indication that layoffs remain at historically high levels due to the pandemic.

The economic upturn removed 2.1 percentage points from the unemployment rate in August, bringing it down to 8.4% of the workforce, compared to 10.5% the previous month, in a month when private companies and the government added 1.76 million jobs.

Between March and April, the world’s largest economy lost about 22 million jobs from the impact of the pandemic, and since then employers have added about 11 million jobs, but the pace of hiring slowed over the summer.

This Thursday’s report refers to workers covered by the conventional unemployment benefit and does not include some 16 to 18 million people with informal jobs or sub-contractors who since the end of July stopped receiving a $600 weekly subsidy created under a temporary program by the government in March.

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