New filings for unemployment benefits in the United States climbed to 740,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, reversing their recent decline amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The rise in seasonally adjusted claims for the week ended November 14 was sharper than analysts had forecast and indicates the persistence of mass layoffs in the world's largest economy as lawmakers in Congress remain deadlocked on enacting a new stimulus measure that could help it weather the storm.
The data also showed 320,237 people applying for benefits under a special program for workers who aren't normally eligible, while the level of claims reported in the week ended November 7 was revised slightly upwards.
The report marked the 35th week since business shutdowns to stop the transmission of Covid-19 caused mass layoffs. And even though the rate of claims has declined from the millions of layoffs seen each week early in the pandemic, it remains above the worst-single week recorded during the 2008-2010 global financial crisis.
"It should be clear now from the data that millions of workers have been self-employed and re-dismissed during this crisis as the tides of virus and government support for businesses ebb and flow," investment banker Dan Alpert said on Twitter.
Congress in March approved a $2.2 trillion measure expanding payments to the unemployed and offering loans and grants to small businesses. But those provisions have expired and despite months of talks, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to agree on how much to spend in a new bill, and what to spend it on.
That's raised fears that the country is set for a renewed downturn as cases spike nationwide.
The country recorded 157,950 new infections over the 24 hours prior to Wednesday, the same day total deaths from the disease climbed above 250,000.