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UPDATE 1-U.S. seeks to fill 6,000 airport screening positions ahead of summer travel

(Adds more details, background)

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said on Friday it is launching an effort to fill more than 6,000 jobs for airport screening officers, citing anticipated seasonal travel trends and progress in COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public.

U.S. passenger airline traffic fell 60.1% in 2020 to the lowest number since 1984 as the COVID-19 pandemic devastated demand for air travel, the U.S. Transportation Department said earlier this week. Major airlines say traffic remains down 60%, with international travel still down more than 70%.

Over the last seven days, the TSA has screened an average of 913,000 air passengers a day, down from 2.25 million a day in the same period last year.

The TSA said that in response to the pandemic response and low passenger volumes, it deferred hiring actions for most of 2020. It also offered voluntary early retirements last year, but a spokesman said that did not have significant impact on the need to recruit.

Last month, TSA said it screened 500 million fewer people at U.S. airport checkpoints in 2020, down 61% from 2019.

The TSA screened 324 million passengers throughout its airport security checkpoints in 2020, down from 824 million in 2019. (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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