The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for a second straight week, to 778,000, evidence that the US economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heightens the risks. The Labor Department's report Wednesday said jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. They shot up to 6.9 million during March before dropping, yet they remain historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen. The data firm Womply says 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of November, reflecting a steady increase from June's 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October.
The total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid, but it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid, which typically expires after six months. For the week of Nov. 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program—which offers coverage to gig workers—rose by 466,000, to 9.1 million. The number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program—which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who've exhausted state jobless aid—rose by 132,000, to 4.5 million. All told, nearly 20.5 million people are receiving some type of unemployment aid, per the AP.
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