US Jobless Claims Drop Sharply

Washington, Dec 23 (AFP/APP): New applications for US jobless claims fell by 89,000 last week after two weeks of increases but remain high as Covid-19 cases have spiked, according to government data Thursday.

Applications fell to 803,000 in the week ended December 19 from an upwardly-revised 892,000 in the prior week, according to the seasonally-adjusted Labor Department data. That was far below the level economists had been expecting, although analysts warn that the reports can be erratic due to seasonal adjustment errors around the holidays.

New claims for special pandemic jobless benefits — which are set to expire in days — fell by nearly 57,000 to 397,511, without seasonal adjustment. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the long-awaited pandemic relief bill that would extend the extra payments for workers who do not usually qualify. In a video message Tuesday, he demanded Congress amend the package finally approved after months of partisan wrangling to increase the direct relief payments from $600 to $2,000.

As of December 5, 20.4 million jobless workers were receiving benefits, more than 14 million of those under special pandemic programs that are due to expire, according to the report. New US jobless claims have increased in four of the past six weeks, indicating layoffs continued to be an issue for firms amid the worsening infection rate. Claims skyrocketed after business shutdowns to halt the spread of Covid-19 started in March, and have remained above the worst single week of the 2008-2010 global financial crisis ever since.

Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act rescue package in the pandemic’s early days, which created a number of programs to expand the unemployment safety net. The $900 billion package approved late Monday night would extend those programs.

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