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Jobless Claims Under 1 Million for Three Straight Weeks — But Coronavirus Threat Remains

The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits remained below the one-million mark for the third consecutive week, but the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat to the United States workforce.

According to the Department of Labor, initial jobless claims totaled 860,000 for the week ended Sept. 12, compared with economists’ bets of 875,000 applications. It was a marked improvement from the prior week’s upwardly revised 893,000.

Included in the data was the number of continuing claims, which paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by one week. It dropped 916,000 to 12.63 million last week, while economists had forecasted 13 million.

Still, the economy has a long road to recovery ahead: Since mid-March, more than 61 million people in the U.S. have submitted jobless claims. Congressional leaders have yet to come to an agreement about another sweeping stimulus plan that would support businesses, families and individuals struggling amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

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Yesterday, Federal Reserve policymakers announced that they expected to keep interest rates at zero to 0.25% at least through the next year. The central bank said it would not hike rates until inflation has grown to 2% and is on track to “moderately exceed 2% for some time.” It will also consider whether the country’s labor market has “reached levels consistent with the committee’s assessments of maximum employment.”

“The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus,” read yesterday’s statement from the bank. “The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment and inflation in the near term and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”

Two weeks ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that American employers added nearly 1.4 million jobs in August, pushing down the unemployment rate to 8.4%. It was a welcome departure from the 14.7% high logged in April, when large swaths of the country went into lockdown to help contain the spread of the outbreak; however, it is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, which typically hovered in the mid-3% range.

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