Nation & World

U.S. jobless claims up for 2nd straight week

Economy, job market remain under strain

The number of a Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000. Above, envelopes from the Florid
The number of a Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000. Above, envelopes from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Re-employment Assistance Program. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under pressure as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heighten the risks.

The U.S. Labor Department’s report Wednesday said jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before.

Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to only about 225,000.

They shot up to 6.9 million during March before dropping — yet they remain historically high more than eight months later, with many businesses unable to fully reopen.

The spike in virus cases is intensifying pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a double-dip recession as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses.

“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks?” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

“Even as job growth is continuing, the labor market remains under stress and far from complete recovery.?

The total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million, from 6.4 million the previous week.

That figure has been declining for months.

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It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months.

More Americans are collecting benefits under programs that were set up to cushion the economic pain from the pandemic. For the week of Nov. 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don’t qualify for traditional aid — rose by 466,000 to 9.1 million.

And the number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program — which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted state jobless aid — rose by 132,000 to 4.5 million.

All told, nearly 20.5 million people are receiving some type of unemployment aid. Figures for the two pandemic-related programs aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.

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