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Weekly jobless claims dip to 712,000 in last week of November

Weekly jobless claims dip to 712,000 in last week of November
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Initial weekly jobless claims fell to 712,000 for the week ending on Nov. 28, declining slightly but lingering well above historic highs eight months into the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in the final full week of November fell from a revised total of 787,000 in the previous week. Economists expected last week’s initial claims to total near 775,000.

Another 288,701 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program created to extend jobless benefits to contractors, gig workers and others who don’t typically qualify for traditional unemployment insurance. The number of PUA applicants in the last week of November fell 30,154 from the previous week.

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As of Nov. 14, roughly 20.2 million Americans were on some form of jobless aid, a decline of roughly 400,000 from the week ending Nov. 7.

The new batch of jobless claims data gives a fresh look into damage sustained by the labor market due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an internal federal government watchdog, warned this week that backlogs and inconsistent reporting timelines among state unemployment offices have distorted the actual number of jobless claims.

The Labor Department will also release the November jobs report Friday, which is compiled from national surveys instead of state-furnished data. Economists expect the U.S. to have added roughly 400,000 jobs in November, but warn that the slowing recovery and skyrocketing coronavirus cases may cause job losses over the winter.

"Tomorrow's jobs report could expose deeper cracks in the recovery resulting from the recent surge in pandemic cases," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at job review and application website Glassdoor.

"Promising vaccine news offers a light at the end of the tunnel, which makes it all the more important that Congress helps the economy hold on to gains made to-date. We don't want to trip over our own feet with the finish line in sight," he added.