Initial jobless claims for the first week of March dropped to a seasonally adjusted 712,000, just 1,000 more than the pandemic low in November.

The figure remains extraordinarily high, as it has now stood above pre-pandemic weekly totals for every week for nearly a year.

But the 42,000-claim drop represents a move in the right direction for the economy and beat Wall Street's expectations of 725,000 new claims.

That figure does not include 478,000 people who applied for claims under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency program set to be renewed when

signs the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill the House approved Wednesday.

The combined total of new claims amounts to 1.2 million.  

The relief plan will also extend the length of benefit programs and an added $300 supplement to all recipients through the beginning of September.

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