WASHINGTON, Sept 24 — Benefit claims filed by newly unemployed people in the United States rose slightly last week to 870,000, defying hopes that the wave of layoffs cause by the coronavirus pandemic would continue to ebb.
Claims filed in the week ended September 19 were 4,000 above the previous week’s revised level, indicating that the world’s largest economy is still struggling to recover from business shutdowns beginning in March to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Another 630,080 people filed new claims under a special programme for those not normally eligible, only about 45,000 less than the previous week.
The business shutdowns caused a surge in weekly claim filings to more than 6.8 million in late March.
Though they have decreased dramatically since then as states have started to reopen, they remain well above the worst single week seen during the 2008-2010 global financial crisis.
The data “provide further evidence of the slowing pace of economic recovery”, Mohamed A. El-Erian of Allianz said on Twitter, noting the latest data went against analysts’ expectation of a continued week-on-week fall.
The insured unemployment rate indicating people actually receiving benefits fell only 0.1 per centage points in the week ended September 12, to 8.6 per cent, the most recent week data was available, with nearly 12.6 million people receiving regular benefits.
All told, slightly more than 26 million people were receiving benefits under all programmes in the week ended September 5.
The data are “disappointing and ominous,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, noting a worrying increase in national coronavirus cases and the continued impasse in Congress on passing more economic stimulus after a programme of expanded unemployment payments ended in July.
“Consumers’ spending — nearly 70 per cent of the economy — can’t continue to increase at its recent pace in the aftermath of the ending of enhanced unemployment benefits, and the latest upturn in Covid
cases and hospitalisations... threatens to trigger renewed restrictions on economic activity,” he wrote in an analysis. — AFP