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Jobless Claims Hit Highest Level in Months as COVID-19 Resurgence Takes a Toll on the Labor Market

The resurgence of the COVID-19 outbreak across the country is starting to take its toll on the United States labor market.

According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Dec. 5 amounted to 853,000 — an increase of 137,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level and much higher than economists’ predictions for 730,000 new applications.

Following seven straight weeks of filings below 800,000, last week’s data represented the highest weekly total since mid-September. What’s more, continuing claims — a measure that paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by a week — jumped by 230,000 to 5.76 million, marking the first time that figure has risen since late August.

The report reflected the struggle of the American workforce as the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, the U.S. for the first time recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day on Wednesday. Over the course of the pandemic, the country has seen more than 15.39 million cases, and at least 289,400 people have died.

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 spread of the novel coronavirus. The rise in infections has already forced some cities to impose new lockdowns and restrictions that have temporarily shuttered businesses such as restaurants, gyms and retail stores and subsequently pushed more people out of work.

Today, investors are eyeing developments surrounding the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as a possible stimulus bill by year’s end. Last night, the House of Representatives passed a short-term funding measure to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week. The resolution, which now goes to the Senate for a vote, buys more time for congressional leaders to reach an agreement on a coronavirus-related relief package that could help support American families, businesses and states.

Currently, lawmakers have put forth a bipartisan bill worth $908 billion, which would include $288 billion for small businesses, an additional $180 billion in unemployment insurance and $16 billion toward the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

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