US weekly jobless claims rise to 742,000, more than economist forecasts as labor-market rebound falters

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  • New US jobless claims for the week that ended Saturday totaled 742,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The reading came in above the consensus economist estimate of 700,000 and showed an increase from the previous week’s revised figure.
  • Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, decreased to 6.37 million for the week that ended November 7. The reading came in slightly below economist estimates.
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The number of filings for US unemployment benefits increased last week, missing economist expectations that foresaw a decline. The latest figures suggest the ongoing labor-market recovery is faltering.

New weekly jobless claims totaled an unadjusted 742,000 for the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department announced Thursday morning. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a reading of 700,000. The total also lands above the previous week’s revised total of 711,000 and snaps a four-week streak of declines.

But continuing claims, which track the aggregate total of Americans on unemployment insurance, offered signs of hope. They fell to 6.37 million for the week that ended November 7 while also coming in below the consensus forecast.

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Last week’s report yielded a larger-than-expected drop in claims. The now-revised total came in well below the consensus estimate of 731,000. Until this most recent batch of data, filings had steadily fallen closer to pandemic lows as hiring continues amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

More than 68 million filings for unemployment insurance have now been made since the pandemic froze US economic activity in March. That handily exceeds the 37 million filings made during the 18-month Great Recession. Though filings have declined significantly from spring levels, they still surpass the 665,000 filings made during the worst week of the last recession.

The labor market’s latest step toward a full recovery arrives as COVID-19 cases surge to fresh records and threaten to plunge the US into another lockdown. The country reported 163,975 new cases on Wednesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. That’s the second-highest daily addition since the pandemic started.

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Many cities have already implemented new restrictions to curb the virus’s spread. New York City announced Wednesday it will close schools and move to online learning as infection rates rebound. The new restrictions have some fearing for another economic downturn.

Should the US face a double-dip recession, it’s poised to do so without the fiscal support seen in the spring. The White House has bowed out of stimulus negotiations and punted to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reach a deal. But Democrats and Republicans remain more than a trillion dollars apart with their respective proposals, cutting into chances of a near-term compromise.

If Congress fails to pass a new spending bill before the year is out, the expiration of two unemployment-insurance programs and the federal eviction moratorium will likely exacerbate the economic pain felt by jobless Americans.

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