751,000 workers seek unemployment benefits

Some 751,000 American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a recent decline amid a nationwide spike in coronavirus infections, the feds said Thursday.

The latest US Department of Labor figures brought the seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic to roughly 66.7 million — equivalent to nearly 42 percent of the nation’s workforce.

New filings dropped from the prior week’s revised total of 758,000 as the nation continued its gradual economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. But they remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, indicating the virus still has the job market in a chokehold.

“The persistently high level underscores the notion that a full labor-market recovery is a long way off as the pandemic continues to force layoffs,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said in a commentary.

The steady decline in jobless claims came as the US grappled with another surge in coronavirus infections, with more than 100,000 new cases reported for the first time on Wednesday.

The rising case numbers — which have led to new lockdown measures in Europe and some American cities — poses a threat to the recovery for workers, Winger said, as does the lack of more aid from Congress.

Continuing unemployment claims, which measure ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag, also dropped to about 7.3 million in the week ending Oct. 24, according to the feds. But that came amid another bounce in workers claiming extended benefits from the federal government after exhausting their 26 weeks of state payments. That number climbed by roughly 277,000 to more than 3.9 million in the week ending Oct. 17.

The jobless claim data came ahead of the feds’ closely watched employment report for October, which is due out Friday. Economists expect it to show the US adding 600,000 jobs last month, down from 661,000 in September, according to Wrightson ICAP.

In a discouraging sign, payroll firm ADP on Wednesday said private companies added 365,000 jobs in October, well below expectations for 700,000 positions.