The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week fell below one million for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Labor Department announced Thursday.

A total of 963,000 jobless claims were filed, representing a week-on-week drop of 228,000. The lowest number recorded since mid-March signals that the virus-hit labor market is continuing its recovery.

Although the claims totaled more than a million for 20 straight weeks, they entered a downward trend as the economy started moving toward reopening.

The US is the country worst hit by the pandemic, with nearly 5.2 million cases and more than 166,000 fatalities, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. In all, more than 1.75 million recoveries have been recorded.

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