Jobless Claims Back Up to September Levels

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New COVID restrictions are impacting the labor market once again.

Since their most recent high in September, jobless claims in the United States have been on a very slow decline in the last several months. Unfortunately, due to both new COVID-19 restrictions brought about by case surges and Congress once again stalling out on stimulus talks, it seems the decline has been reversed.

According to statistics from the Department of Labor, there were 885,000 new claims for unemployment benefits during the week ending in December 12, the most claims seen since the previous high set during the week of September 5. These numbers surpass expectations set by Dow Jones economists, who were only expecting around 808,000 new claims for the past week, followed by an adjusted 862,000 claims. Counting both new claims and ongoing claims together, a total of 20.6 million Americans are currently on some manner of unemployment benefits as of the end of November.

Stifel chief economist Lindsey Piegza told CNBC that these statistics “really highlight the fragility of the labor market, particularly now as the second resurgence of the coronavirus [is] leading to further business closures and additional job losses.”

Indeed, according to the latest data from John Hopkins University, there have been at least 247,000 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, at least 113,000 of which have lead to hospitalization, and an additional 3,600 COVID-related deaths. Congress has been meeting throughout the week to settle on a stimulus plan before the Friday deadline, at which point the government will shut down again if an agreement is not reached. The currently proposed package would send $900 billion in aid to citizens and businesses, including direct payments, but as of writing, an agreement has not been reached.

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