October 28, 2020

U.S. weekly jobless claims rise again, total 1.434 million


The number of Americans who filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 1.434 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday, roughly in line with expectations, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. economy. 

It was the 19th straight week in which initial claims totaled at least 1 million and the second consecutive week in which initial claims rose after declining for 15 straight weeks.

Economists polled by Dow Jones had expected claims to rise to 1.45 million for the week ending July 25.

In a separate report, the government said second-quarter gross domestic product plunged a historic 32.9% on an annualized basis. Although it wasn’t as bad as the expected  34.7% decline, it was the worst drop ever, with the closest previously coming in mid-1921.

Continuing claims — which are composed of those receiving unemployment benefits for at least two straight weeks — rose by 867,000 to 17.018 million for the week ending July 18. Data on continuing claims is delayed by one week.  

“The level of claims still remaining elevated and the rise in continuing claims definitely reflects the reclosings over the past few weeks [that] we’ve seen in some states where the virus has flared up in,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Bumpy and uneven will be the economic recovery until we have a vaccine where most of the world is mass inoculated.”

Initial claims filed in California totaled 249,007, the Labor Department said. In Florida and Georgia, however, they declined from more than 100,000 to 87,062 and 84,581, respectively. These states are among those that have seen a resurgence in coronavirus cases as state officials ease quarantine and social distancing measures. 

The latest claims numbers come as lawmakers struggle to push forward on a new coronavirus relief package. Earlier this week, Republicans proposed a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks. However, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that both Democrats and Republicans are “nowhere close to a deal.”

The Democratic-controlled House last month passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that included continuation of an additional weekly unemployment benefit of $600. Republicans have balked at that proposal. The supplemental benefits expire Friday. 

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