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Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise Again as Covid-19 Cases Surge

New applications for jobless benefits unexpectedly rise for the first time in five weeks as Covid-19 infections continue to soar, and as deaths continue to rise.

New applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose for the first time in five weeks as Covid-19 infections continued to soar to record levels across the country, and as deaths from the disease continued to rise.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 742,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Nov. 14, up from a revised 711,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 700,000.

Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 6.372 million for the week ended Nov. 7, down from a revised 6.801 million the previous week, the Labor Department said.

U.S. coronavirus infections crossed the dubious 250,000 mark this week as a surge in new cases has overwhelmed hospitals in almost every state, prompting many city and state lawmakers to curb non-essential activities including dining and other indoor activities that employ people. 

"This isn’t the trajectory we want to see, and it underscores the fact that lockdowns kicking in across the country have a very real and negative effect on the labor market," said Mike Loewengart, Managing Director, Investment Strategy with E*TRADE Financial. 

While the labor market has recouped 12.1 million of the 22 million jobs lost when the pandemic rolled across the U.S. in March, the pace of the gains has cooled in recent months. All told, more than 21 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment aid.

Some of the recent drops in continuing claims represent individuals who have exhausted the maximum duration of payments available through regular state programs and are now collecting money through a federal program that provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits. 

Some 8.682 million Americans were claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits through Oct. 31, while 4.377 million individuals were claiming Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, the Labor Department said.