US jobless claims rise to 778,000 as pandemic worsens

Paul Wiseman
Associated Press
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Washington – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heightens the risks.

The Labor Department’s report Wednesday said jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to roughly 225,000. They shot up to 6.9 million during one week in March before dropping yet remain historically high more than eight months later, with many businesses unable to fully reopen.

The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits is now 6.1 million, up from fewer than 1.7 million a year ago. Still, that figure had been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid – which typically expires after six months – and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.

What’s more, the intensifying pandemic is threatening to accelerate the pace of layoffs as more states and localities limit public gatherings and mandate fewer hours and smaller capacities for restaurants, bars and other businesses. Regardless what governments do, many Americans are likely to stay home – and away from local businesses – until they feel safe again.

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