742,000 more Americans applied for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus outbreak

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The number of Americans claiming state unemployment benefits last week increased for the first time since the start of October, indicating that layoffs are still high as a surge in coronavirus cases threatens to derail the economic recovery.

The latest unemployment claims figures from the Ministry of Labor, which cover the week ending Nov. 14, show 742,000 workers asked for help last week, about four times the level before the crisis. Still, it is well below the peak of nearly 7 million at the end of March, when states first implemented lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

That’s a slight increase from last week’s revised figure of 711,000 and well above the 707,000 new claims predicted by economists at Refinitiv.

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“The headline here is concerning, with an increase from 31,000 to 742,000 in the number of new claims in traditional state-administered programs,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “That, combined with the increase in claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, puts us at over a million new claims. ”

Nearly 67 million Americans around 40% of the country’s labor force have been asking for help since the coronavirus lockdowns began in mid-March.

The number of people who continue to receive unemployment benefits fell to 6.37 million, a decrease of around 429,000 from the previous week. The drop suggests that employers are recalling their workers.

Yet some of the decline in so-called continuing claims may represent workers who have exhausted the maximum number of payments available under state unemployment programs (typically around six months) and are now receiving benefits under state unemployment. a separate federal program that extends aid for 13 weeks. Congress created the additional federal benefits earlier this year with the passage of the CARES Act.

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There are still about 10.1 million more Americans out of work than in February, before the pandemic struck.

The report comes as newly confirmed daily infections in the United States rose 80% in the past two weeks to the highest levels on record. More states and cities are adopting new lockdown measures, including restricting indoor dining, closing gyms, reducing hours or capacity at bars and other businesses, and limiting the size of restaurants. indoor gatherings.

“After a strong recovery from the severe recession in March and April, the economy faces increased risk as we wait for the delivery of vaccines that are believed to be effective, giving us real reason to be hopeful,” said Hamrick .

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