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U.S. Unemployment Claims Slipped Last Week but Still High

U.S. Unemployment Claims Slipped Last Week but Still High

New applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, suggesting layoffs were easing despite a surge in coronavirus cases across the coun

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New applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, suggesting layoffs were easing despite a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

Initial claims for jobless benefits, a proxy for layoffs, declined to 709,000 last week from 757,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday. While weekly claims have fallen from a peak of near 7 million at the end of March, they remain well above levels seen before the coronavirus hit this spring at just above 200,000.

The number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, which cover most workers, dropped to 6.8 million for the week ended Oct. 31 from 7.2 million. Continuing claims are well below their spring levels, reflecting that many laid-off workers have been recalled to jobs or hired elsewhere. Others, though, have exhausted state benefits, a sign many are facing long periods of joblessness.

The U.S. set another single-day record for coronavirus cases on Wednesday, as the total number of new infections topped 136,000, while hospitalizations due to Covid-19 were at their highest level since the pandemic began. Rising infections could prompt some cities and states to reimpose lockdown measures and consumers to stay at home.

By October, the labor market had recouped 12.1 million of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April, but the pace of the gains has cooled in recent months. Other economic measures such as consumer spending have also pointed to slower growth this fall.

This post first appeared on wsj.com

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