US Weekly Jobless Claims Increase again

A restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego California

A restaurant in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego California

New applications for unemployment aid in Florida continue to tumble - though slowly.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 778,000 for the week ended November 21, the Labor Department said on Wednesday.

Nationally, the number continues to climb.

And sales of new homes remained steady in October, the latest sign that ultra-low mortgage rates and a paucity of properties for sale have spurred demand and made the housing market a rare economic bright spot.

The total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week.

For the week of November 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program - which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don't qualify for traditional aid - rose by 466,000 to 9.1 million. "Nationally, we are in a situation where you have a very large number of people filing for unemployment benefits and while there had been a decrease leading up to two weeks ago, we're still seeing national levels higher than those posted at the height of the financial crisis 10 years ago".

The weekly claims report, the most timely data on the economy's health, was published a day early, because of Thursday's Thanksgiving Day holiday. Those two programs will expire at year-end, leaving many without government aid.

Instead of receiving 20 weeks worth of extended benefits, those needing unemployment assistance will receive 13 weeks worth.

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US jobless claims rise to 778,000 as pandemic worsens | The Sacramento Bee

The heart of the problem is an untamed virus: The number of confirmed infections in the United States has shot up to more than 170,000 a day, from fewer than 35,000 in early September. More than 12 million people have been infected in the country, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

Though the claims report showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 299,000 to 6.071 million in the week ending November 14, that was because many have exhausted their eligibility, which is limited to six months in most states.

That and the ebb in consumer confidence amid the raging pandemic cast doubts on the sustainability of strong spending.

A separate Commerce Department report showed USA household spending rose in October but incomes dropped by more than forecast, owing in large part to a decline in government supplemental jobless benefits.

Iowa Workforce Development said about 43.6 percent of claims are not related to coronavirus.

That improvement, which spilled over to the broader economy through robust consumer spending, was spurred by the fiscal stimulus.

The economy expanded at a record 33.1 per cent annualized pace in the third quarter, unrevised from the initial reading.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase have slashed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% annual GDP rate. Slower growth was underscored by a fifth report from the Commerce Department showing the goods trade deficit increased 1.2% to US$80.3 billion in October. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, predicts annual GDP growth of around 2% in the October-December quarter, with the possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of 2021.

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