WASHINGTON — A much-awaited economic boom coming off the pandemic recession appeared to edge closer to reality Thursday with fresh data showing the pace of layoffs dwindling, consumers spending freely and manufacturing rebounding.

The latest barometers point to a U.S. economy that’s steadily regaining its health as vaccinations accelerate; business curbs are lifted in many states; and more people are willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise resume their spending habits. Though many Americans who have lost jobs or income are still suffering, hopes are rising that the benefits of the recovery will spread further in the coming months to groups of people who have yet to benefit.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, a post-covid low and a sign that layoffs are easing.

And sales at retail stores and restaurants jumped 9.8% in March, the biggest…

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