The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 89,000 last week to a still-elevated 803,000, evidence that the job market remains under stress nine months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the US economy into recession and caused millions of layoffs. The latest figure, released Wednesday by the Labor Department, shows that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home. Before the virus struck, jobless claims typically numbered around 225,000 a week before shooting up to 6.9 million in early spring. The pace of layoffs has since declined but remains historically high in the face of the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, reports the AP.
"The fact that more than nine months into the crisis, initial claims are still running at such a high level is, in absolute terms, bad news," Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at the economic consulting firm Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc., wrote in a research note. "With the pandemic again worsening, it is likely that claims will remain quite elevated for some time to come." According to the data firm Womply, closings are rising in some hard-hit businesses. For example, 42% of bars were closed as of Dec. 16, up from 33% at the start of November. Over the same period, closures rose from 25% to 29% at restaurants and from 27% to 35% at salons and other health and beauty shops. And the Wall Street Journal sees sobering news elsewhere, noting existing-home sales, "which had been a bright spot in recent months," were down 2.5% in November over October.
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