800,000 Americans applied for jobless aid week before Christmas

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The number of people applying for jobless aid fell slightly last week but remained at a high level, showing the coronavirus continues to take a toll on the economy.

Some 803,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending December 19, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That’s a drop of 89,000 from the week before.

Another 397,000 applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for the self-employed and gig workers. 

“Even with the potential new stimulus package, labor market damage continues to mount in real time. Total initial claims (non-seasonally adjusted) ticked down but remain above one million even ten months into this crisis,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a note.

Before the virus struck, jobless applications typically hovered around 225,000 a week. They shot up to 6.9 million in early spring when the virus — and lockdown efforts to contain it — flattened the economy. The number has since come down but remains at historically high levels.

Congress this week reached a deal to extend jobless benefits as part of a $900 billion economic rescue package. But on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump attacked the deal as inadequate, suggesting that he might not sign it into law unless stimulus check amounts of $600 to many Americans were increased to $2,000.

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