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Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Relatively Unchanged at 751,000

  • First-time jobless claims end last week at 751,000, falling just 7,000 from the previous week
  • Continuing claims on downward trend, but this is partially due to people exhausting their state benefits
  • Rising COVID-19 cases and uncertainty over new stimulus raise concerns about slowing labor recovery

First-time jobless claims at the end of last week stood at 751,000, a reduction of just 7,000 from the previous week. The improvement fell slightly short of the modest prediction of 10,000 fewer claims expected by Dow Jones economists, and raised concerns that the recovery of the U.S. labor market is proceeding slower than expected.

Jobless claims have been elevated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring. While this is the third week where first-time claims have fallen below 800,000, they remain above the previous peak of 695,000 set in October 1982.

Continuing claims were down 538,000 to 7.3 million, though this was partially due to recipients exhausting their state unemployment benefits and migrating to the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance program, whose rolls increased 277,564 to 3.96 million. Another 363,000 people applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends unemployment benefits to gig workers and self-employed people impacted by the pandemic; the program terminates at the end of the year.

The labor market in the United States has recovered a little more than half of the 22 million jobs lost in the pandemic. The total number of unemployed people in the nation stood at 21.5 million, down 1.15 million but well above the figure of 1.44 million in the same period in 2019.

While the Labor Department will not publish its jobs report until Friday, the Wall Street Journal is forecasting that the number of new jobs added in October will fall to 530,000 – down 131,000 from September’s figure and less than half of the August jobs figure. While some companies continue to hire workers, especially in areas like transportation and sanitation that have seen higher demand during the pandemic, several major firms have announced layoffs due to diminished demand and revenues. The rising tally of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., as well as a lack of new federal stimulus, is also contributing to uncertainty over the labor recovery.

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