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First-time jobless claims drop to lowest level in more than 50 years

Rising wages give retailers hope for a strong holiday season - NBC's Alice Barr reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KYMA, KECY/NBC News) - Good news for the U.S. economy Wednesday. A new report shows first-time jobless claims dropped to the lowest level since 1969.

President Joe Biden called it "a historic jobs recovery."

It's also a sign of a tight labor market. Employers now struggle to both find workers and hold on to the ones they have, raising wages to attract new-hires.

"We have a huge number of jobs--far more jobs open than we have people wanting to fill them," says Steve Rattner, a former U.S. Treasury advisor.

Labor shortages are compounding bottlenecks in the nation's supply chain, and driving soaring inflation, making this holiday season more challenging for food banks.

"Turkey's up 10 percent, sweet potatoes up 28 percent, very difficult to find cranberry sauce these days," says Catherine Lynn with the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Before leaving for his own Thanksgiving gathering, President Biden touted his administration's efforts to get the supply chain moving again, including relief for clogged ports.

"In the past three weeks, the number of containers sitting on docks, blocking movement, are down by 33 percent, shipping prices are down 25 percent," the President said on Tuesday.

As roughly 50 million Americans hit the road this holiday week, the President is also trying to ease the highest gas prices in years by releasing oil from the nation's strategic reserve. Although, relief won't come overnight.

"Many administrations have done this in the past, it's typically not been very successful, and I wouldn't expect a big move out of this either," says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former Chief Economist of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

Despite higher prices on everything from food to fuel, retailers are hoping more money in Americans' paychecks will put them in a gift-giving mood.

NBC News

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