Number of Americans filing for unemployment aid surges to highest level since August

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment aid last week rose to the highest level since mid-August, the latest sign the economy’s recovery is stalling amid a surge in COVID-19 infections nationwide.

Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show 965,000 Americans filed first-time jobless claims in the week ended Jan. 9, higher than the 795,000 forecast by Refinitiv economists.

The number is nearly four times the pre-crisis level but is well below the peak of almost 7 million that was reached when stay-at-home orders were first issued in March. Almost 70 million Americans, or about 40% of the labor force, have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

The number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 5.27 million, an increase of about 199,000 from the previous week. The report shows that roughly 18.4 million Americans were receiving some kind of jobless benefit through Dec. 26.

The report provides fresh evidence that a record-setting rise in coronavirus cases — the U.S. reported more than 4,200 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total to 381,000 — and new lockdown measures are weighing on the labor market. A separate report released last week shows that employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, marking the first loss since the early months of the pandemic.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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