US weekly jobless claims slide to 847,000 as stimulus debate continues

Nick Oxford/ReutersPeople who lost their jobs during the pandemic wait in line to file for unemployment benefits in Arkansas.
  • New US jobless claims for the week that ended Saturday totaled 847,000, down from the previous week’s revised total of 914,000.
  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to dip to 875,000.
  • Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, sank to 4.8 million for the week that ended January 16.
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The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance slid last week as the labour market’s recovery accelerated.

New US jobless claims totaled an unadjusted 847,000 for the week that ended Saturday, the Labour Department announced Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecasted a reading of 875,000 filings. The sum comes in above the previous week’s revised total of 914,000 filings and marks a second consecutive decline.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment-insurance payments, dropped to 4.8 million for the week that ended January 16. Economists expected continuing claims to total 5.1 million.

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More than 76 million claims for unemployment benefits have been made since the pandemic halted economic activity in March. The total dwarfs the 37 million filings made during the Great Recession, and weekly counts have yet to fall below the 665,000 filings seen during the previous downturn’s worst week.

Though filings remain at elevated levels, the trend in COVID-19 infections suggests the labour market could soon see a better backdrop. The US reported 151,675 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the 7-day average to 159,740 after it neared 200,000 just weeks ago. Hospitalizations fell to 107,444 and deaths neared 420,000, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Additional economic aid could also boost the rate of improvement. Democrats continue to push for President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 trillion stimulus package, with some looking to pass the bill by mid-March. A growing group of Democrats is ditching efforts to garner support from Republicans for the measure, saying the economic crisis warrants quick passage through budget reconciliation.

Democrats should spend a “very limited amount of time” appealing to Republicans, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday.

“We’ve got to move quickly. The president believes that this is a high priority and I agree,” he added.

The proposal includes $US1,400 direct payments, expanded unemployment insurance, and state and local government aid, among other elements.

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