Nation & World

U.S. jobless claims rise to 885,000

Virus cases threatens the economy's recovery

A Help Wanted sign is posted at a eyeglass store in Miami this past month. (Associated Press)
A Help Wanted sign is posted at a eyeglass store in Miami this past month. (Associated Press)

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose again this past week to 885,000 — the highest weekly total since September — as a resurgence of coronavirus cases threatens the economy’s recovery from its springtime collapse.

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday the number of applications increased from 862,000 the previous week.

It showed that nine months after the virus paralyzed the economy, many employers still are slashing jobs as the pandemic forces more business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home.

The number of claims was much higher than the 800,000 that economists had expected.

Before the coronavirus erupted in March, weekly jobless claims typically had numbered only about 225,000. The far-higher current pace reflects an employment market under stress and diminished job security for many.

The total number of people who are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits fell to 5.5 million, from 5.8 million.

That figure is down sharply from its peak of nearly 23 million in May.

It means that some jobless Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving aid.

But it also indicates that many of the unemployed have used up their state benefits, which typically expire after six months.

With layoffs still elevated and new confirmed viral cases in the United States now exceeding 200,000 a day on average, the economy’s modest recovery is increasingly in danger.

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“U.S. weekly jobless claims continue to head in the wrong direction,” Edward Moya, an analyst at the currency trading firm OANDA, wrote in a research note.

“The labor market outlook is bleak as the winter wave of the virus is going to lead to more shutdowns.”

Businesses appear to be retrenching as cases surge and the economy sputters.

The data company Womply reports that 23 percent of local businesses were closed Dec. 1, up steadily from 17 percent at the start of August.

Womply also found that 41 percent of all local bars are closed along with 28 percent of restaurants and 32 percent of hair salons and other health and beauty shops.

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