More than 1.1M Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected 925,000 new claims

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to more than 1 million, the Labor Department said Thursday.

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Initial weekly jobless claims totaled more than 1.1 million for the period ending Aug. 15, bringing the total number of claims to 57.4 million -- more than one-third of the U.S. labor force -- since coronavirus-related lockdowns began in March.

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Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected 925,000 new claims.

Instead, the rebound marked "a step backward on the path to recovery," said Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao. "The modest jump is a stark reminder that claims will likely encounter some turbulence as they fall, rather than gliding in for a soft landing."

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Last week, the number of Americans filing for jobless aid fell below 1 million for the first time since the pandemic began. While the figure was adjusted upward on Thursday to 971,000, it remains less than that benchmark.

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The latest data nonetheless showed some optimistic indications: Continuing claims, a broader category that measures unemployed workers receiving benefits for longer than a week, totaled 14.84 million, 156,000 less than expected, for the week ending Aug. 8.