New applications for unemployment benefits dipped last week with continuing claims falling below 7 million for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, even as Covid-19 infections continue to soar to record levels across the country.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 709,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Nov. 7, down from a revised 787,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 735,000.
Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 6.786 million for the week ended Oct. 31, down from a revised 7.222 million the previous week, the Labor Department said.
The U.S. set another single-day record for coronavirus cases on Wednesday, as the total number of new infections topped 146,000 while hospitalizations due to Covid-19 were at their highest level since the pandemic began.
That, in turn, has raised speculation that more consumers will opt to stay at home, impacting businesses' need for workers. Possible lockdown measures being reimposed in some cities and states could exacerbate the trend, some economists contended.
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, over 21 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment aid.
Much of that aid continues to come in the form of pandemic-specific assistance. Some 9.433 million Americans were claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits through Oct. 24, while 4.143 million individuals were claiming Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, the Labor Department said.
While October's nonfarm payrolls report showed a net gain of 638,000 new jobs and the headline jobless rate falling to 6.9%, other indicators including consumer spending have raised concerns that the offsetting impact of the Federal Reserve's interest rate cuts and other programs and the government's stimulus measures are waning.
Separately, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday that prices for goods and services was unchanged in October, missing forecasts that called for a modest gain, reflecting cheaper gasoline, declining medical-care costs and lower clothing prices.