The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose again last week to 885,000, the highest weekly total since September, as a resurgence of coronavirus cases threatens the economy’s recovery.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of applications increased from 862,000 the previous week, showing that nine months after the virus paralyzed the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs.
With layoffs still elevated and new confirmed viral cases in the U.S. now exceeding 200,000 a day on average, the economy’s modest recovery is increasingly in danger.
“It’s difficult for many small businesses to maintain their workforce or even imagine hiring new workers when there is so much uncertainty,” said Christopher Carlozzi, the National Federation of Independent Business’s state director. “With cities around Massachusetts rolling back more aggressively than the state, employers located there may have no choice but to reduce job opportunities and cut back staffing, which hinders Massachusetts’ ability to recover.”
The total number of people who are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits fell to 5.5 million from 5.8 million, indicating that some jobless Americans are finding jobs, but that others have used up their state benefits.
Many unemployed Americans are collecting checks under two federal programs that are set to end the day after Christmas. Unless Congress acts to extend that aid, benefits will end completely for an estimated 9.1 million jobless people.
“Today’s report shows that the jobs recovery we saw earlier this year is backsliding as the pandemic surges and employers furlough or lay off workers,” said Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao. “This means millions of unemployed Americans are increasingly relying on expanded unemployment programs that expire in a matter of weeks.”
There is no stimulus deal, yet.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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