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In Mass. And Nationally, Jobless Claims Fall Slightly, With U.S. Layoffs High

In this Dec. 10, 2020 file photo, a "Now Hiring" sign hangs on the front wall of a Harbor Freight Tools store in Manchester, N.H.   (Charles Krupa/AP File)
In this Dec. 10, 2020 file photo, a "Now Hiring" sign hangs on the front wall of a Harbor Freight Tools store in Manchester, N.H. (Charles Krupa/AP File)

Just under 24,000 Massachusetts residents filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, slightly down from the week prior, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

The total includes both traditional unemployment filings and those made by gig workers and independent contractors through the special program set up for the pandemic.

Nationally, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits also fell slightly last week to 793,000. It's evidence that job cuts remain high despite a substantial decline in new viral infections.

Last week’s total declined from 812,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That figure was revised higher from the previously-reported figure of 779,000. Before the virus erupted in the United States in March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.

The job market's improvement slowed through the fall and in the past two months has essentially stalled. Over the past two months combined, employers have cut 178,000 jobs. Nearly 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic.

Though the unemployment rate fell in January to 6.3% from 6.7%, that was mainly because many people who had lost jobs stopped looking for one. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they're actively seeking work.

With reporting from WBUR's Sara Rose Brenner and The Associated Press' Christopher Rugaber

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