The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims decreased to 900,000 last week as the economy continued to suffer the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) figure released Thursday represented a decrease in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending Jan. 16, in which there were 965,000 new jobless claims reported. Roughly 16 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the BLS report Thursday.
Economists expected Thursday’s jobless claims number to come in around 925,000, The Wall Street Journal reported. New jobless claims fell below 1 million in the first week of August, which was the first time the weekly claims had fallen below 1 million since March.
“Covid hasn’t let up, and it’s still creating massive amounts of economic havoc,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at jobs website Indeed, told The WSJ.
Meanwhile, the stocks surged to record highs Wednesday as President Joe Biden was sworn into office and Democrats became the majority party in Congress. Investors were optimistic about Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill, which includes $2,000 direct payments to Americans and an additional $400 in unemployment pay per week.
“Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” Biden’s pick to lead the Treasury Department Janet Yellen said Tuesday during her confirmation hearing, CNBC reported. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”
Biden inherits an economy that has been sluggish in recent weeks and months. The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, marking the first jobs loss since April, according to the Department of Labor data released Dec. 4. U.S. retail sales plummeted by 1.1% in November even as holiday shopping began, a Department of Commerce report showed Dec. 16.
Jobless claims hovered around 200,000 per week before the pandemic, according to The WSJ. Former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in March as coronavirus spread rapidly around the world.
Average coronavirus cases and deaths per million have stayed elevated for months, according to The COVID Tracking Project. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 4,409 new coronavirus-related deaths and 185,822 new cases while 122,700 Americans remained hospitalized from the virus.
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