US workers file 709,000 new unemployment claims amid COVID-19 spike

Another 709,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market continued a slow recovery threatened by a dangerous new wave of coronavirus infections, the feds said Thursday.

The latest initial jobless claims brought the number filed during the COVID-19 pandemic to a seasonally adjusted total of more than 67.4 million — a figure larger than the population of the United Kingdom, the US Department of Labor data show.

The fourth straight weekly decline in new filings came as the US grappled with a record-setting spike in virus cases that’s led some parts of the country to consider new restrictions on businesses like those that sent unemployment to record levels in the spring.

“Surging virus cases remain a downside risk despite favorable news on the vaccine front,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said in a commentary. “Health risks will likely affect mobility and activity in the near-term until a vaccine is widely available.”

Last week’s jobless claims beat economists’ expectations for 730,000 filings but remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for the 34th consecutive week.

Continuing claims, which measure ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag, dropped to about 6.8 million in the week ending Oct. 31, marking the seventh straight weekly drop in that seasonally adjusted figure.

But the number of people claiming extended benefits from the feds after exhausting their 26 weeks of state payments rose yet again to about 4.1 million in the week ending Oct. 24, up from more than 3.9 million the prior week.

The latest jobless claim figures followed last week’s jobs report showing the US adding a better-than-expected 638,000 jobs in October as the economy continued to reopen.

But that continued growth could face obstacles going into the winter as coronavirus infections continue to break records across the nation. More than 143,000 cases were reported in the US Wednesday as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo set a 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars in the state.

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