803,000 file jobless claims, down from previous week
Jobless claims eased off their two-week rise in the week ending on Dec. 19, falling a seasonally adjusted 89,000 to 803,000, a 10 percent drop.
But the numbers remained high, even by the standards of recent months.
Prior to the pandemic, the largest weekly jobless claims increase on record was 692,000. After spiking above 6 million in April, claims slowly fell, dropping below 1 million in August.
By November, weekly claims remained in the 700,000 range, a still alarming level, but a sign that the economy had somewhat improved relative to the summer.
Since Thanksgiving, however, claims shot up again above 800,000 as the number of coronavirus cases spiked, setting new daily records for infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
State and local governments reimposed restrictions and cautious people made greater efforts to stay home, as winter set in and added new challenges for businesses that had adapted for outdoor use.
The weekly data showed that non-adjusted claims fell 72,512, while nearly 400,000 people signed up for an expanded emergency pandemic unemployment program for gig workers and the self-employed.
The total number of benefits claimed in two expiring emergency programs totaled 14 million.
Congress passed extensions to the programs Monday, but President Trump on Tuesday night demanded increases to stimulus payments in the bill, raising questions as to whether the programs would expire over the weekend.
“Between more than one million total new claims on the week and the running total of more than 20 million individuals on some form of unemployment assistance as of the latest week, we’re still seeing a historically elevated number of requests for help,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.
“Despite the hopes associated with the availability of vaccines and the reopening of the economy, the outlook is for only slow improvement in the job market in the year ahead.”
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