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New jobless claims drop slightly to 712,000 as virus sets grim new records

New jobless claims drop slightly to 712,000 as virus sets grim new records and adds strain to the economy

  • Initial claims for jobless aid for the week ending November 28 totaled 712,000
  • That is down 75,000 from the prior week but remains historically high
  • Closures for Thanksgiving may have delayed some from filing new claims
  • Continuing claims for traditional benefits declined to 5.5 million
  • Federal programs for expanded benefits will expire on December 31 

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a still-high 712,000, the latest sign that the U.S. economy and job market remain under stress from the intensified viral outbreak.

Initial claims for jobless aid for the week ending November 28 dropped from 75,000 from a revised 787,000 the week before, but remain far above the average 225,000 before the pandemic, according to Thursday’s report from the Labor Department. 

The chronically high pace of applications shows that nearly nine months after the pandemic struck, many employers are still slashing jobs.

The total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits declined to 5.5 million from 6.1 million. That figure is down sharply from its peak of nearly 23 million in May.

A passer-by walks past a store closing sign, right, in the window of a department store in Boston in October. Jobless claims fell slightly to 712,000 last week

It means that some jobless Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving aid. But it also indicates that many of the unemployed have used up their state benefits, which typically expire after six months.

With layoffs still elevated and coronavirus hospitalizations hitting record rates in the U.S., the economy’s modest recovery is increasingly in danger. 

States and cities are issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, restricting restaurant dining, closing gyms or reducing the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.

Most experts say the economy won’t be able to sustain a recovery until the virus is brought under control with an effective and widely used vaccine.

Labor Department data shows new jobless claims (top) and continuing claims (bottom)

Labor Department data shows new jobless claims (top) and continuing claims (bottom)

Many jobless Americans are now collecting checks under two federal programs that were set up this year to ease the economic pain inflicted by the pandemic. 

But those programs are set to expire the day after Christmas unless Congress acts. 

If the programs expire, benefits will end completely for an estimated 9.1 million unemployed people.

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