New claims for benefits decline; job market may be healing
Virginia had fewer claims but area figures increased
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, a still-high level but the lowest figure since March and a further sign that the job market might be slowly healing.
In Virginia, initial jobless claims fell 4.3%, or a decrease of 441 claimants, from the previous week, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Thursday. The number of initial claims stood at 9,909 for the week that ended Nov. 7.
But in the Richmond region — Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico — initial claims rose 6.2% last week compared with the previous week. The region had 1,163 claims, up from 1,095 claims the previous week.
Richmond and Chesterfield continued to have the most initial claims — 528 in Richmond, up 2.9% from the previous week; and 302 in Chesterfield, an increase of 5.9%.
Yet the improvement across the country in the number of initial claims will be put at risk by the sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high well more than 120,000 a day.
As colder weather sets in and fear of the virus escalates, consumers might turn more cautious about traveling, shopping, dining out and visiting gyms, barber shops and retailers. Companies in many sectors could cut jobs or workers’ hours.
Last week’s count of new applications for unemployment was down from 757,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The still-elevated figure shows that eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs.
So far, the spike in viral cases hasn’t triggered a wave of new layoffs. The number of applications for unemployment insurance fell last week in 29 states, including such hot spots as Wisconsin and Illinois. At the same time, the figure jumped by more than 5,000 in California, 10,000 in Washington State and 2,800 in Massachusetts.
The number of people continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits fell to 6.8 million, the government said, from 7.2 million.
That suggests more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.
The number of Virginians who are continuing to receive benefits fell 7.8% last week compared with the previous week, the commission reported. A total of 91,960 continued claims were filed last week.
The number of people on federal and state extended benefits rose 130,000 in the week that ended Oct. 24, the latest period for which data is available, to 4.7 million.