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Americans Seeking Unemployment Benefits Nears 50-Year Low, If You Don't Count Furloughed Federal Workers

Natasha Bach

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits is lower than it’s been in decades—but that’s an incomplete picture since furloughed federal employees are excluded from the latest job-market report.

According to figures released by the Labor Department on Thursday, weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level last week since November 1969. Weekly applications declined 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 199,000, reports The Associated Press. Meanwhile, the four-week average fell 5,500, to 215,000.

While the employment report indicates a robust job market, it doesn’t include the number of federal employees that have sought unemployment aid in the weeks since the government shutdown began. Federal workers’ unemployment is tracked separately and therefore isn’t included in Labor’s monthly jobs report.

Now in its fifth week, the shutdown is having an acute impact on federal employees: 25,419 applied for unemployment benefits last week, more than double the number from the prior week.

The overall national employment report is heartening, providing reassurance that employers are not laying off their workers despite uncertainty associated with the shutdown. But should it continue to drag on, the number of federal employees seeking unemployment benefits is likely to increase. Federal employees have already missed an average of $5,000 in wages and many are looking for alternate sources of income.