US workers file 778,000 jobless claims as COVID-19 crisis total nears 69 million

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Some 778,000 American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as a surge in coronavirus infections kept the labor market’s recovery under pressure, the feds said Wednesday.

The latest initial jobless claims reported by the US Department of Labor brought the seasonally adjusted total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 68.9 million — a number nearly as large as the population of Thailand.

New unemployment filings have risen for two straight weeks stayed above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for nine solid months even though millions of people have returned to their jobs since the pandemic sidelined them in the spring — progress that could be hampered by new lockdowns amid a record-setting spike in cases.

“Layoffs have been slowly trending lower, but risk is tilted modestly higher due to widening restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said in a commentary.

Last week’s initial claims came in above economists’ expectations for 730,000 filings, according to Wrightson ICAP. Continuing claims, which measure ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag, continued their steady decline by falling to about 6 million in the week ending Nov. 14 from 6.3 million the prior week.

But the number of people claiming extended benefits from the feds after exhausting their 26 weeks of state unemployment payments climbed once again to roughly 4.5 million in the week ending Nov. 7, the most recent for which figures are available.

Those long-term jobless workers will be cut off from those extra payments, which were provided under the CARES Act, on Dec. 26 unless Congress acts to extend the program.

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