Jobless claims spiked in the U. S. last week; 853,000 seek benefits
Unemployment claims also have nearly tripled across Richmond region
WASHINGTON— The number of new unemployment claims rose sharply to 853,000 last week, an increase of 137,000 from the week before, another sign of the toll the pandemic is taking on the labor market.
The number of claims leapt over 800,000 for the first time since the week ending Oct. 10, when they came in at 842,000. It was the largest number since mid-September.
In Virginia, initial jobless claims filed in the week ending Saturday jumped to its highest level since the beginning of August, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The VEC reported 16,654 claims last week, which was an increase of 8,048 from the prior week.
Jobless claims nearly tripled across the Richmond region from the previous week. In the week ending Saturday, there was a 536% increase in Hanover County (from 33 to 210 claims); 202% increase in Henrico County (160 to 483); 161% increase in Richmond (293 to 765); and 117% increase in Chesterfield County (166 to 361).
A spike in coronavirus cases in the United States has rattled large parts of the economy in recent weeks.
There are now more than 1 million new cases of coronavirus each week in the United States, and the country shattered a record on Wednesday with more than 3,000 deaths from the pandemic. Hospitals in many parts of the country are overwhelmed, and many state and local jurisdictions have imposed fresh restrictions to try to curb the increase.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have spent months in unsuccessful negotiations about another economic relief package, leaving the econ
omy without the kind of support that economists say was so important to cushioning the pandemic’s blow early on in the crisis. A new round of talks recently started and has shown some progress, but a deal has remained elusive.
President Donald Trump has pushed for a new round of $600 stimulus checks but he has sought to extend only limited aid for unemployed Americans, while Democrats and some Republicans have sought more robust benefits in anticipation of a crush of new filings. There are still more than 10 million Americans who remain unemployed from the spring.
The new burst of jobless claims from last week was slightly larger than the last two big jumps, for that October week, when they rose about 75,000, and in early August, when claims rose 133,000, making it the largest increase in claims since millions began flooding the system
at the pandemic’s outset in March.
“Given COVID-19 cases and deaths are now regularly setting new highs, these reports put into question job growth in December,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
An additional 427,600 claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for gig and self-employed workers, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
Economists have been warning for months about coming damage to the economy if Congress failed to authorize another stimulus package to help prop up struggling businesses and households. The labor market has in general fared better than the most dire projections made during the pandemic’s early months, but has been flashing warning signs for weeks.
The 245,000 jobs added in November were the lowest number added since the recovery began in May, and a sign that December’s report could go into the negative. The number of unemployment claims is another concerning data point.