Unemployment claims rise for first time in 5 weeks

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After falling steadily for five weeks, the number of Americans filing for jobless aid is edging up.

Some 742,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended November 14, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s an increase of 31,000 from the week before. The figures are adjusted for seasonal variation.

Another 320,000 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for the self-employed and others who don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

The weekly jobless claims, while still at historically high levels, had been falling steadily since October 10. Last week’s reversal is a sign that the rampaging COVID-19 outbreak is denting the fragile recovery.

“Though it is not a perfect indicator, the uptick in claims is a sign of the impact the new shutdowns/restrictions are having on the job market,” Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets Economics, said in a report. “This also arrives in a week that showed retail sales slowing ahead of the key holiday season.”

Altogether, 20.5 million people, or 1 in 8 workers, were receiving some sort of unemployment benefits as of the last week of October.

Two federal programs authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act are set to expire on December 26. That could deprive 12 million jobless workers of unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, according to a new analysis.

This is a developing story.

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