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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below the 1 million marks for the first time since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the country last week.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the United States totalled 963,000 at a seasonally adjusted rate in the week ending Aug. 8, compared with 1.191 million claims the previous week, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

It was the lowest number since mid-March when authorities began to shut down non-essential businesses due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Economists polled by Reuters had expected 1.12 million initial requests for state aid in the last week, so the news is a positive surprise. 

Thursday’s unemployment claims report also showed that the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of assistance, a measure known as ongoing claims, fell from 16.09 million to 15.49 million in the week ending Aug. 1. Another positive point of the report was that the total number of people receiving unemployment in all programs fell by more than 3 million in the week ended July 25, reaching 28.26 million. 

Since March, Congress has authorized about $3.6 trillion in new spending to help American families and businesses overcome the consequences, and economists widely acknowledge that the relief has minimized the damage to the American economy.

The additional unemployment benefit expired on July 31. On Saturday, President Donald Trump signed a decree that among other measures allowed for the extension of emergency aid, although the weekly payment was cut to $400. 

States are instructed to contribute $ 100 from the emergency benefit while the remaining $300 will be financed with a limited program of emergency disaster assistance, which economists estimate will be able to pay the benefit until the beginning of September.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said that the president plan would offer an additional $300 a week for the unemployed. 

Official data indicates that claims for unemployment benefits reached a peak of 6.867 million at the end of March.

Thursday’s report also showed that the number of people who continued to receive unemployment benefits after an initial week of assistance totalled 15.486 million in the week ending Aug. 1, compared with 16.09 million in the prior period.

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