The number of Americans applying for state unemployment benefits inched down last week as the nation's labor market continued its gradual recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown.
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The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department, which cover the week ending Sept. 12, show that 860,000 workers sought aid last week, pushing the total number since the shutdown began to nearly 61 million.
Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected 850,000 new claims. Last week's figure was revised upward by 9,000 to 884,000.
Continuing claims, the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid, fell by 916,000 to about 12.6 million, below the 13 million expected by Refinitiv economists.
Roughly 1 million unemployed Americans have been seeking aid each week for the past six months, when the COVID-19 crisis triggered an unprecedented shutdown of the nation's economy, pointing to a sluggish turnaround. It's down from the peak of more than 6 million claims in late March, but remains well above the 200,000 reported in February. Before the pandemic, the record high was 695,000, set in 1982.
Several large employers have also recently warned of job cuts. American Airlines said it will cut 19,000 workers in October once federal aid expires, Ford Motor is offering buyouts to salaried employees with the goal of cutting 1,400 workers, MGM Resorts is laying off 18,000 workers and Coca-Cola is offering buyouts to 4,000.
The report comes as a $300-a-week federal unemployment boost that President Trump issued at the beginning of August is beginning to expire in some states.
Economists have urged Congress to overcome a month-long stalemate and pass another round of emergency relief for workers and businesses reeling from the pandemic and have warned that without additional stimulus, the recovery could stall out.
"While there has been continued posturing among officials in Washington regarding a new economic relief measure, the millions of Americans looking for help have nothing to show for it," said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com's senior economist. "In addition, a federal government shutdown looms October 1 unless Congress and the President approve new funding. If officials let that happen, they’ll be adding financial insult to injury caused by the pandemic."