Jobless Claims Hold Steady as Daily COVID-19 Cases Exceed 100,000 for the First Time

As a number of key states continue to count election votes, the United States’ labor market is showing signs of a long route to recovery as hundreds of thousands of Americans are still filing for unemployment benefits amid the persistent coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Oct. 31 were 751,000 — a decrease of 7,000 from the prior week‘s upwardly revised level. It marked the 10th consecutive week that applications were below the one-million mark and the third straight week that filings were below 800,000. Economists had been expecting 741,000 claims.

With the results, the four-week moving average fell to 787,000. Continuing claims — a measure that paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by a week — dropped for the sixth week in a row, by 538,000 to nearly 7.3 million.

Weekly applications for unemployment have declined significantly since peaking at 6.9 million in late March, when millions of people were furloughed or laid off as coronavirus-related lockdowns forced the closures of nonessential businesses like stores, restaurants and other services. Prior to the outbreak, however, jobless filings held at about 200,000, and the previous record for the most claims came in October 1982 at 695,000.

Also notable, a tally by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. eclipsed 100,000 for the first time on Wednesday. The data revealed that 102,831 infections were recorded on Wednesday — up from 91,530 cases on Election Day.

In tandem with the release of the report, Wall Street extended its rally on the hopes that the next U.S. president would soon be named. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 1.7%, or nearly 480 points, shortly after market open on Thursday. The S&P 500 improved 2%, or almost 70 points, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 2.4%, or 280 points.

The jobless claims report was also released a day before the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report, which is forecasted to show a gain of 530,000 for October. For September, American employers added 661,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point to 7.9%. It’s the highest the rate has been ahead of a presidential election since the government started tracking the data in 1948.

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