US workers file 751,000 jobless claims, COVID-19 total nears 66 million

Some 751,000 Americans applied for jobless benefits last week but the number of workers joining the nation’s unemployment rolls continued to drop, the feds said Thursday.

The US Department of Labor figures mean workers have filed a seasonally adjusted total of 65.9 million initial jobless claims over the past eight months of the coronavirus pandemic — a number nearly as large as the population of France.

New filings have ticked down for two consecutive weeks but remain well above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 despite falling significantly from their late March peak of 6.8 million. Economists were expecting 780,000 claims last week, according to Wrightson ICAP.

“The labor market is showing signs of improvement in October versus September, but the progress is small and there are fresh headwinds for the economy from the soaring number of new coronavirus cases,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank.

Continuing claims, which measure ongoing unemployment on a one-week lag, posted their fifth straight drop to 7.7 million in the week ending Oct. 17. But experts say the decrease is likely fueled by jobless workers exhausting their standard 26 weeks of benefits that states generally provide.

That’s been accompanied by an uptick in people claiming extended benefits through the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. There were about 3.6 million people in that program in the week ending Oct. 10, up roughly 387,000 from the prior week, according to the feds.

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