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Persistently high jobless claims drop to 779,000

Persistently high jobless claims drop to 779,000
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Initial jobless claims in the last full week of January fell to a seasonally adjusted 779,000, a drop of 33,000 from the previous week, but still a historically high level demonstrating persistent troubles in the job market.

The previous week's total was revised down by 35,000 as well.

Still, it is the lowest reading since November.

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"None of these numbers check off the box that says mission accomplished on healing the economy," said Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick.

"Approaching the one-year mark of the pandemic, it is quite striking that new claims remain so elevated," Hamrick added. "It is not only the depth but also the duration of the downturn taking a toll."

An additional 348,912 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program expanding benefits to the self-employed and gig economy workers, leaving the number of unadjusted new claims above 1.2 million in the latest report.

A lagging measure of the total number of claims found that a total of 17.8 million people were receiving some level of unemployment benefits in mid-January, a decrease of 486,405 from the previous week.

In five weeks, emergency programs benefiting 60 percent of all recipients are set to expire alongside an additional $300 per week for all recipients.

Extending those programs is a key part of COVID-19 relief negotiations. President Biden's $1.9 trillion package seeks to extend the programs through September, raise the weekly increase to $400, and add in automatic stabilizers to phase them out as local employment conditions improve.

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Centrist Republican senators who met with Biden on Monday, however, proposed extending the programs in their current levels through June in their $618 billion counteroffer.

Democrats in Congress have begun a process to pass COVID-19 relief without GOP support, using a budgetary process called reconciliation.

Updated at 8:55 a.m.