US workers file 840,000 new jobless claims as crisis total tops 63 million

Another 840,000 American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus continued to threaten the US economy, the feds said Thursday.

The US Department of Labor’s latest seasonally adjusted figures brought the number of initial jobless claims filed amid the COVID-19 crisis to about 63.6 million — the equivalent of nearly 40 percent of the nation’s total workforce.

Last week’s filings fell from the prior week’s revised total of 849,000 but outpaced economists’ expectations for 820,000 new claims. They also marked the sixth consecutive week with filings hovering between 800,000 and 900,000 — still far above the Great Recession’s weekly peak of 665,000.

The number may have been driven down by California pausing its processing of unemployment applications for two weeks to work through a backlog of claims and implement anti-fraud technology.

Continuing claims, which measure ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag, fell to about 10.9 million in the week ending Sept. 26, continuing their steady decline as more unemployed workers likely exhausted the 26 weeks of benefits that states generally provide.

Experts fear the labor market’s recovery from the spring’s massive coronavirus-fueled job losses will falter if the government doesn’t provide another round of aid to the ailing economy. But President Trump pulled the plug on broad stimulus negotiations with Congress this week, raising further questions about when more help will arrive.

“Newly reported job losses remain heavy, and it is still unclear at this point whether there will be enough offsetting new job creation to produce a sixth consecutive monthly increase in payrolls in October,” Wrightson ICAP experts wrote in a commentary.

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