The number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits rose again last week as a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases could jeopardize economic recovery.
The latest data from the Department of Labor on unemployment claims for the week ending November 21 show that 778,000 workers asked for help last week, four times the pre-crisis level. Although well below the peak of nearly 7 million at the end of March, when states first implemented blocking measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, this marks the second consecutive week of claims.
This is a slight increase from last week’s revised 748,000 and well above the 730,000 new claims forecast by Refinitiv’s economists.
“Weekly unemployment insurance benefits are moving in the wrong direction, with the first increase since July,” said Robert Frick, a corporate economist for the Navy Federal Credit Union. “Along with the slower-than-expected decline in expected damage, we are seeing the effects of the rapidly growing COVID-19 cases across the country.”
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Nearly 68 million Americans – roughly 40% of the nation’s workforce – support has since been requested since the closure of the coronavirus began in mid-March.
The number of people who continue to receive unemployment benefits fell to just over 6 million, down 299,000 from the previous week.
While the downturn suggests that employers are recalling their employees, it could represent laid-off Americans who used up the maximum number of salaries available through state unemployment programs (usually about six months) and now receive benefits through a separate federal program. extends support for 13 weeks. Congress created the extra federal benefits by passing the CARES Act earlier this year.
But key federal unemployment benefit programs set up in March expire at the end of the year, and on December 26, some 12 million workers have no income, according to a new study published by the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.
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By December 4, up to 4.4 million workers are expected to have exhausted their unemployment benefits, 3.5 million Americans will use extended pandemic emergency unemployment benefits, and 925,000 will run out of pandemic unemployment benefits.
Job losses remain high, and as COVID-19 cases accelerate across the country, forcing the state and local governments to implement new closure measures, economists are increasingly warning of a bleak winter.
“There hasn’t been a bigger need here for a long, long time,” Federal Reserve President Jerome Powell said last week over his recent appeal to Congress and the White House over another stimulus package.
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