US workers file 885K jobless claims amid wave of COVID-19 lockdowns

US workers file 885K jobless claims amid wave of COVID-19 lockdowns

American workers filed 885,000 applications for unemployment benefits last week, pointing to another unexpected jump in layoffs amid the latest wave of coronavirus lockdowns, the feds said Thursday.

Last week’s initial jobless claims brought the total reported during the COVID-19 crisis to roughly 71.4 million — a number larger than the combined populations of Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

The latest filings outpaced economists’ expectations for 820,000 claims and rose from the prior week’s revised total of 862,000 to reach their highest level since early September. The four-week moving average also ticked up for the second straight week to 812,500 — a sign that the labor market’s recovery is sputtering in the pandemic’s deadliest phase yet.

“If any doubts remained that record COVID-19 cases were pushing up unemployment claims, they were dashed with the latest week’s numbers,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.”

Initial jobless claims have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 39 straight weeks despite declining considerably from the late March peak of 6.8 million.

The recent rise in filings came as the nation battled a resurgence of COVID-19 that’s regularly killing thousands of people a day even as the first vaccine for the deadly bug was rolled out this week.

The jump in infections has prompted some cities and states to impose new business restrictions aimed at stemming the virus’ spread, sparking concerns that the economy could shed jobs in December after seven straight months of growth.

Workers claimed nearly 21 million weeks’ worth of unemployment benefits from state and federal programs in the week ending Nov. 28, up from about 19 million in the prior week, the latest US Department of Labor data show. That number accounts for millions of people receiving money through federal aid programs that are due to expire at the end of December unless Congress acts to extend them.

Experts have warned that the recovery will suffer even more if lawmakers don’t deliver another round of stimulus spending to shore up the pandemic-battered economy. Other signs have pointed to a recent slowdown in economic activity, such as a larger-than-expected drop in retail sales in November.

“With their words pointing to the possibility of a bi-partisan agreement on the need for economic relief, we remain hopeful that elected officials in Washington are moving closer to acknowledging the grim reality of the situation and moving to legislative action,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

“If such passage does occur, it would hardly merit high praise for members of Congress, who’ve spent the better part of the past year failing to get it done when the need was obvious all along,” he added.

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