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Economic Report: Jobless claims drop to two-month low of 215,000 as omicron wanes and businesses hire more people

The numbers: New applications for unemployment benefits fell by 18,000 to a two-month low of 215,000 in the last week of February, pointing to a pickup in hiring and declining layoffs as the economy rebounded from a omicron-induced lull.

Initial jobless claims declined from a revised 233,000 in the prior week,  the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast initial jobless claims to total a seasonally adjusted 225,000 in the seven days ended Feb. 26.

Big picture: The economy appears to have regained some momentum after flagging at the end of 2021. Coronavirus cases have tumbled, governments lifted restrictions and businesses are trying to deliver more goods and services.

The big holdups are lingering shortages of materials and labor. Companies have almost 11 million open jobs — two for every unemployed worker — but not enough people to fill them.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and prospect of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates are adding to an uncertain outlook in the short run.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+1.79%

 and S&P 500
SPX,
+1.86%

were set to open slightly higher in Thursday trades. Stocks rose on Wednesday, but they have been under pressure after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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