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The numbers of local workers freshly thrown out of work by COVID-19 and kept out of work by the virus continue to dwindle, new data shows.

Some 251 Lancaster County residents filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board reported Thursday.

That figure, a drop of 5.6% from the prior week, is the fewest since the pandemic began in mid-March. It’s also near the pre-pandemic norm of about 200 new claims per week.

The statistic’s roller-coaster ride started when the pandemic arrived, prompting Gov. Tom Wolf to shut down all but life-sustaining business facilities and limit travel in an effort to control its spread.

The weekly volume of local new claims (formally known as initial claims) quickly peaked at 15,700 in early April. Since then, though, it has shrunk most weeks as Wolf cautiously loosened or removed those restrictions, depending on the industry, as the number of new COVID-19 cases dropped.

The local new-claim trend is in step with the national and statewide patterns, as new claims nationwide declined 1.1% to 840,000 last week and new claims in Pennsylvania fell 15.8% to 19,300.

Likewise, the number of Lancaster County residents already unemployed and continuing to seek benefits ebbed in the week ended Sept. 26, the most recent week for which that figure is available.

It slid 15.5% to 15,800, according to the board.

Unlike the volume of new claims, though, the number of continued claims remains far from the pre-pandemic norm – about four times higher – suggesting that the county economy remains in a recession.

A major reason why the number of continued claims is staying relatively high is that key economic sectors including hotels, restaurants, bars, stores and live-event firms have experienced little to no recovery, due to state restrictions and cautious consumers.

Nonetheless, thanks to other sectors bouncing back, the volume of continued claims has made substantial improvement in recent months. In early May, for instance, the weekly volume was 50,900.