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Jobless claims spike to 898,000 in latest sign of economic weakness

Jobless claims spike to 898,000 in latest sign of economic weakness
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Initial jobless claims for the week ending Oct. 10 spiked to 898,000, the latest sign of weakness in the U.S. labor market.

The figure was up 53,000 from the previous week, and the number of claims has remained persistently high over the past few months.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed that the total number of people claiming benefits across a slew of programs in late September fell by 215,270, to 25.3 million.

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The weak economic figures pose a challenge to President Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, particularly as many economists say they are the result of a pandemic that the U.S. has yet to get under control.

When factoring in an additional 373,000 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a CARES Act program that expanded benefits to gig economy workers and the self-employed, the total number of new claims approached 1.3 million.

Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain said the latest figures "cast a dark cloud over the nation’s slow economic recovery."

"America is unlikely to see a full recovery and a return to low unemployment until the pace of weekly UI [unemployment insurance] claims dials back significantly. As the virus remains in the driver’s seat, today’s elevated claims cast a shadow over the fate of the U.S. labor market in the next half year," he said.

The latest data comes as the White House continues wrangling with Democrats over a fifth COVID-19 relief bill. Trump says he's ready to "go big" and insisted on Twitter that "Republicans are ready to go" despite steep opposition to a high relief bill price tag from the Senate GOP.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) has insisted that the White House's latest $1.8 trillion offer remains inadequate over policy details such as a national testing program.

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The bitter disagreements between the sides have allowed crucial programs, including additional weekly benefits to the unemployed, to expire in July.

“The already dire situation will only worsen unless leaders in Washington can cut through the election year fog and deal with unemployment legislation in the coming months," said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Without the extra benefits, he noted, most claimants would only receive around $200-$300 a week, though the amount varies significantly by state.

Updated at 9:19 a.m.