U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to 6%. What Does That Mean for More Stimulus Relief?

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on April 3, 2021

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A line of people seated waiting for an interview with resumes in hand.

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The economy had a stronger month in March. Here's how that might impact future relief measures.

When the coronavirus pandemic first broke, jobs were shed at a rapid pace -- so much so that the U.S. unemployment rate reached a record high 14.7% in April of 2020. Thankfully, the jobless rate has been steadily declining since then. And while we're still nowhere close to pre-pandemic levels, things are certainly improving.

In fact, the Department of Labor has just reported that March's unemployment rate fell to 6%. That's a modest but notable drop from February's 6.2% jobless rate.

All told, non-farm jobs increased by 916,000 for the month, which surpassed economists' expected 675,000 new jobs. Furthermore, leisure and hospitality -- an extremely hard-hit industry during the pandemic -- added 280,000 new jobs in the month of March. Of those, bars and restaurants contributed 176,000 new positions.

Clearly, all of this is good news for the U.S. economy. But what does it mean for Americans who could benefit from future financial relief?

We're not out of the woods

Though it's encouraging to see the jobless rate fall, the labor force is still down 2.2 million jobs from a year ago. Furthermore, while coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out at a decent pace, the pandemic is still far from over, and added restrictions could be put into place if cases continue to spike. As such, it's too soon to say whether Americans will be in line for a fourth stimulus check or not.

For now, those who are unemployed are in line for a $300 weekly boost to their jobless benefits until early September. Whether that aid gets extended will largely hinge on what the jobless rate looks like later this year and also how many people are unemployed on a long-term basis.

Some lawmakers have been pushing President Joe Biden to approve automatic recurring stimulus payments and ongoing boosted benefits rather than vote on those measures every number of months. But given that the recent $1.9 trillion relief bill was met with much criticism and opposition by those who felt it was too costly and broad, it's unlikely that automatic aid will be on the table anytime soon.

If another relief bill is signed into law that includes a round of stimulus checks, the eligibility thresholds will likely be tightened so that the money goes only to the neediest.

Right now, many Americans are using their third stimulus check to make ends meet. But some people are in a strong enough position to use that money to pad their savings accounts or invest for the future. And while that's not a bad thing, a fourth stimulus check would likely be geared toward those in truly dire financial straits.

In fact, it may be the case that any future stimulus rounds are reserved for the jobless only or those who have been out of work for a certain period of time -- say, six months or longer.

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