Rise in US weekly jobless claims cast shadow on labour market recovery

The number of initial jobless claims in the US topped the 1 million mark last week, casting shadow on the recovery of the labour market ravaged by the Covid-19 crisis.

In the week ending August 15, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased by 135,000 to reach 1.1 million, Xinhua news agency quoted Labour Department as saying in a report on Thursday.

Initial jobless claims spiked by 3 million to reach a record 3.3 million in the week ending March 21, and then doubled to reach a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28.

After that, the number had been declining for 15 weeks consecutively, though they were still at historically high levels, before the trend was reversed in the week ending July 18 amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The number then fell to 963,000 in the week ending August 8, the first time it has dipped below 1 million since mid-March, but the trend was reversed again last week, another setback for the struggling job market.

With the latest numbers, a staggering 57 million initial jobless claims have been filed over the past 22 weeks, indicating a mounting economic fallout related to the pandemic.

An extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, but Democratic lawmakers and President Donald Trump’s administration remain deadlocked over the next Covid-19 relief package, with both sides blaming each other for making little progress.

As negotiations stall, President Trump signed a series of executive orders to extend certain Covid-19 economic relief, but analysts believe that they are unlikely to provide a meaningful boost to the overall economy.

One of the actions will extend extra unemployment benefits through the end of the year at a reduced level of $400 per week, instead of the $600 approved by Congress in late March.

The new order also demands states cover 25 per cent of the $400 weekly benefits, but only a handful of states have approved the funding.

But amid the grim milestones, the number of people continuing to collect state unemployment benefits declined by 636,000 to 14.8 million in the week ending August 8.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 1 also declined 197,601 to 28 million.

Earlier data showed that US employers added 1.8 million jobs in July, and the unemployment rate dropped to 10.2 per cent amid reopening efforts.