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Initial jobless claims rise for second week, reach 778,000

Initial jobless claims rise for second week, reach 778,000
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Initial jobless claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 778,000 in the third week of November, increasing for the second week in a row as rising levels of COVID-19 cases weakened demand and pushed states and localities to reimpose restrictions that affect businesses.

The figure was an increase of 30,000 over the previous week's total, which itself was revised upward by 6,000.

Unadjusted claims rose 78,372 to 827,710, a 10.5 percent spike.

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Another 311,675 people claimed benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency program that expands eligibility for benefits to the self-employed and gig economy workers, bringing overall new claims to nearly 1.1 million.

"Weekly unemployment insurance claims are moving in the wrong direction with the first back-to-back increases since July,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Together with a slower-than-expected drop in continuing claims, we're seeing the effects of rapidly rising COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Initial claims remain at nearly four times their pre-pandemic average, and have been higher than the pre-pandemic record since March.

Stock futures dropped on the news early Wednesday, paving the way for the Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall below the 30,000 threshold it crossed for the first time one day earlier.

All in all, 20.4 million people were claiming benefits of some kind.

“The 20 million Americans on some form of unemployment assistance may find it challenging to be as thankful as they would like to be, with many unable to put a traditional celebratory meal on the table,” said Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick.

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“Unfortunately, both for the economy and the well-being of individuals and the businesses employing them, we’re currently stuck in a kind of pandemic purgatory,” he added.

House Democrats and Senate Republicans have yet to set up post-election negotiations on a long-stalled relief package to help people and businesses struggling from the economic effects of the pandemic.

--Updated at 9:24 a.m.