Jobless Claims Remain Elevated at 840,000 as Congress Struggles to Pass Stimulus Bill

The government continues to report historically high levels of unemployment as lawmakers struggle to pass a stimulus bill that would help the coronavirus-battered United States economy.

According to the Department of Labor, the number of initial jobless claims reached 840,000 in the week ended Oct. 3. It marked a drop of 9,000 from the prior week, which was revised up by 12,000 to 849,000 applications. Economists had predicted a total of 825,000 filings last week.

The data also showed that continuing claims, which paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by one week, declined by just over 1 million to 10.98 million.

The number of unemployed Americans has hovered over 800,000 for more than a month and remains seven times higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Until mid-March, weekly applications held at about 200,000. (The previous record for most claims filed came in October 1982 at 695,000.) Since the COVID-19 outbreak swept the U.S., roughly 64 million people lost their jobs and subsequently sought benefits from the government.

President Donald Trump said today that his administration and House Democrats have resumed negotiations about an aid package — just two days after tweeting that he had told his representatives to halt discussions. In an interview this morning with Fox Business, he said, “I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they are starting to work out. We’re starting to have some very productive talks.”

Trump has suggested that the measure would provide financial support for the hard-hit airline industry as well as small businesses, plus another round of $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals. “We got back, we started talking again,” he added. “And we’re talking about airlines, and we’re talking about a bigger deal than airlines. We’re talking about a deal with $1,200 per person, we’re talking about other things.”

Congressional leaders have routinely clashed over the specific provisions as well as the cost of another COVID-19 legislation. Last week, Democrats passed a relief bill worth $2.2 trillion, while Republicans have proposed a separate $1.6 trillion package.

The jobless claims report comes less than a week after the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that American employers added a disappointing 661,000 jobs in September, while the unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point to 7.9%. It’s the highest the jobless rate has been ahead of a presidential election since the government started tracking the data in 1948.

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