U.S. Unemployment Claims Rise as Pandemic Weighs on Economy

Worker filings for initial jobless claims jumped to nearly one million last week, indicating rising layoffs amid a surge in Covid-19 cases at the start of the year.

The number of applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, rose by 181,000 to 965,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That put initial jobless claims at their highest level since mid-August and well above the roughly 800,000 a week they have averaged in recent months.

The increase is another sign that the economic recovery is sputtering, as coronavirus infections hit record levels nationwide.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected the government to report that new unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, came in at a seasonally adjusted 800,000 last week.

The current level is far less than the peak of nearly seven million jobless claims filed in late March. However, workers are filing nearly four times more applications than they typically did in the first two months of 2020, and still higher than in any other recession on record.

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