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Jobless Claims Hit Lowest Level Since Pandemic Struck US — But America’s Recovery Slows as Talks of National Lockdown Heat Up

The number of workers who sought unemployment benefits last week hit its lowest point since the coronavirus pandemic whipped the United States — but America’s recovery appears to be slowing down.

According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims in the week ended Nov. 7 totaled 709,000 — a decrease of 48,000 from the prior week‘s upwardly revised level. (Economists had predicted 740,000 new claims.) It marked the 11th consecutive week that filings were below the one-million mark and the fourth straight week that they were below 800,000.

What’s more, continuing claims — a measure that paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by a week — dropped for the seventh week in a row, by 436,000 to 6.79 million.

Still, the country is facing another tough bout with the ongoing health crisis: Over the past several weeks, a surge in the outbreak has threatened certain parts of the country, leading some cities to impose new lockdowns that have affected businesses such as restaurants, gyms and retail stores.

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On Wednesday, the U.S. set another single-day record for COVID-19 cases. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, the total number of coronavirus-sickened people hit a high of 140,543 yesterday — the ninth day in a row of new cases topping 100,000. (The second highest number — 136,325 cases — was recorded on Tuesday.)

Hospitalizations also reached their highest point for the second straight day. The COVID Tracking Project announced yesterday that 65,368 people were hospitalized — up from the 61,964 record reported on Tuesday.

Texas became the first state with more than a million confirmed infections, while California logged more than 995,000 cases. In New York, which saw its highest number of cases in the spring, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide to close at 10 p.m. starting tomorrow.

Still, optimism took over Wall Street early this week when pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotechnology firm BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. An interim analysis of their clinical trial looked at the first 94 confirmed cases of the virus among more than 43,000 volunteers, who got either two doses of the vaccine or a placebo. It found that under 10% of infections were in participants who were given the vaccine and more than 90% of COVID-19 cases were in people who received the placebo.

Today’s report also shows the first set of jobless claims data released since the U.S. determined the victor of the 2020 presidential election. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris were respectively named President- and Vice President-elect, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

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