A report from the Labor Department on Nov. 5 (pdf) showed that 751,000 people filed for state unemployment benefits in the week ending Oct. 31, a drop from last week’s revised level of 758,000. Weekly jobless claims hit a record 6.867 million in March and, aside from several upticks, have fallen ever since, although at a slowing rate.
“The U.S. economy continues to mount a slower recovery compared to the stronger restoration of employment seen earlier this year,” Bankrate.com senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick said in a statement to The Epoch Times.
While at their lowest level since March, weekly jobless filings remain above their 665,000 peak seen during the 2007–2009 Great Recession.
“Even as employers add or restore jobs, there is still ongoing job loss reflecting the depth and duration of the downturn now in its 33rd week,” Hamrick said.
The Labor Department figures also showed that the total number of Americans receiving some form of unemployment benefit dropped by more than a million to a still-elevated 21.5 million. By comparison, the corresponding week in 2019 saw 1.4 million workers receiving unemployment assistance.
In the meantime, new confirmed cases of the CCP virus in the United States reached an all-time high of more than 86,000 a day, on average, casting a shadow of uncertainty on the economy and labor market recovery in the period ahead.
Data firm Womply reported that more businesses are shuttering in the face of a resurgence of the virus, noting that 21 percent of small businesses were closed as November began, up from 20 percent in October, 19 percent in September, and 17 percent in August. It also found that sales growth is slowing at the companies that are open.
“Accelerating cases are an ever-present threat during winter, and a virus surge means economic uncertainty for businesses,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed. “Until that uncertainty is eliminated, the labor market will struggle to return to what it used to be.”
Another cloud of uncertainty over the economy is the prospect of a contested presidential election, which could undermine business investment and delay further pandemic relief.
With a swift fiscal package unlikely as politics take center stage, the focus will shift to the Federal Reserve to pump more money into the economy. The U.S. central bank is expected to keep interest rates near zero when policymakers conclude a two-day policy meeting later on Nov. 5.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.