US workers file 900,000 new jobless claims as COVID-19 total tops 75 million

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Americans filed 900,000 applications for unemployment benefits last week, a signal that layoffs are still going strong as the coronavirus hammers businesses and workers alike.

The feds have now reported about 75.6 million initial jobless claims over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic — a number equivalent to roughly 47 percent of the nation’s workforce.

The filings reported Thursday marked a slight drop from the prior week’s revised total of 926,000 and came in below economists’ expectations for 930,000, according to Wrightson ICAP.

But the number of initial claims has surged from 782,000 in the last full week of December, a month in which the US economy lost 140,000 jobs as spikes in coronavirus infections and deaths led many states to impose new lockdown measures.

Experts say the recent spike in jobless filings may have something to do with the coronavirus relief bill Congress passed last month. One key measure boosted unemployment payments by $300 a week, which “may have encouraged some to apply,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.

Nevertheless, jobless claims have now remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 44 consecutive weeks as COVID-19 kills thousands of Americans each day.

Workers claimed a staggering 16 million weeks worth of state and federal jobless benefits in the week ending Jan. 2, though that number fell from about 18 million the prior week, the US Department of Labor said.

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