The number of people who sought unemployment benefits reached its lowest level in a pandemic-era United States — a sign of recovery in the labor market as the country experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases.
According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Nov. 28 totaled 712,000 — a decrease of 75,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level and below economists’ predictions for 775,000 new applications. It marked the 14th consecutive week that filings were below the one-million mark and the seventh straight week that they were below 800,000.
Continuing claims — a measure that paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by a week — also dropped 569,000 to 5.52 million.
The report comes a day after the U.S. saw a record number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day and second-highest level of newly reported infections: According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. logged 3,157 deaths — up from 2,597 on Tuesday. It also inched closer to its high of new COVID-19 cases with 200,070 on Wednesday — an increase from Tuesday’s 180,098.
What’s more, the COVID Tracking Project announced that hospitalizations were also at a high, exceeding 100,000 for the first time on Wednesday.
Health authorities have predicted that these numbers will continue to climb as the holiday season and the cooler months have led to more crowds and indoor gatherings that can accelerate the outbreak. The rise in infections has already forced some cities to impose new lockdowns and restrictions that have affected businesses such as restaurants, gyms and retail stores.
Still, investors have expressed optimism on positive COVID-19 vaccine developments as well as a possible stimulus bill by year’s end. Yesterday, Democratic leaders indicated that they were prepared to reduce their demands for the next round of relief measures and work with Republican lawmakers to achieve a deal even before President-Elect Joe Biden takes office.
“We and others will offer improvements,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement about a new bipartisan $908 billion proposal. “But the need to act is immediate, and we believe that with good-faith negotiations, we could come to an agreement.”