US workers file 712,000 new jobless claims as COVID-19 surge continues

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American workers filed 712,000 applications for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus continued to rage across the nation, the feds said Thursday.

The US Department of Labor’s latest figures brought the seasonally adjusted total of initial jobless claims reported during the COVID-19 pandemic to about 69.6 million — equivalent to more than 43 percent of the nation’s workforce.

Last week’s batch marked a significant drop from the prior week’s revised total of 787,000 and came in well below economists’ expectations for 768,000.

But experts say concerns about the accuracy of the weekly reports have made them less reliable indicators of the labor market’s health than previously thought.

The feds have equated the number of weeks for which Americans claimed unemployment benefits with the number of people who are actually out of work, the Government Accountability Office said this week. While the comparison usually works in normal times, it’s become “flawed” during the pandemic because states struggled to process big backlogs of claims that have created distortions in the data, the watchdog said.

“The trend is still telling — backlogs and retroactive claims
have likely abated as of late,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said in a commentary. “Yet, the recovery in the labor market has slowed and a large pool of unemployed workers remains, consistent with other measures.”

Accuracy concerns aside, Initial jobless claims have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 37 consecutive weeks despite last week’s drop.

Continuing claims measuring ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag dropped once again to about 5.5 million in the week ending Nov. 21, according to the Labor Department.

The latest data came a day ahead of the feds’ monthly jobs report for November, which is expected to reveal another slowdown in job growth amid a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases. Experts predict it will show the economy adding 500,000 jobs last month, down from 638,00 in October, according to Wrightson ICAP.

A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine

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