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US Jobless Claims Remain Historically High At 840,000

Jobless claims continued to be below 1 million last week, but so far have failed to slip under 800,000 since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Thursday (Oct. 8) by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

For the week ending Oct. 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 840,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 12,000 to 849,000, up from 837,000.

A survey of Dow Jones economists had expected 825,000 new claims. The higher number represents a cooling of summer jobs growth.

The new number easily tops the pre-pandemic record high of 695,000 from 1982.

“New claims appear to have settled into a still historically high pattern, numbering in the 800,000 range since late August,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst with, in a statement. “The intermediate-term outlook remains quite concerning for several reasons, although we remain hopeful that the eventual availability of effective and safe vaccines will get us to a better place on a number of fronts.”

One of the factors putting a damper on near-term economic improvement is the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the dim prospects for federal relief legislation, Hamrick added.

“Many Americans are still facing the prospect of layoffs, and businesses of all sizes are facing the threat of failure, reduced sales and or capacity” he said.

The total number of Americans claiming benefits for the week ending Sept. 19, the most recent data available, was 25.5 million, a decrease of 1 million from the previous week. That contrasts with 1.4 million claiming benefits in the comparable week last year, DOL reported.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Sept. 26 were in Maryland (3,619), Illinois (3,414) where layoffs in retail and healthcare fueled the number of applications, New Jersey (2,504), Michigan (2,358) and Massachusetts (1,886), while the largest decreases were in Texas (7,075), Florida (6,655), Georgia (5,895), New York (5,112) and Oregon (2,317).

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