Jobless claims dropped last week, retreating from a three-month high though still holding above 800,000 as businesses continued to scale back their ranks amid an ongoing surge in Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that 803,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 19, up from a revised 892,000 claims the week earlier. Economists had expected claims of 880,000.
Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 5.337 million for the week ended Dec. 12, down from an upwardly revised 5.507 million the previous week, the Labor Department said.
The numbers reflect ongoing troubles in the all-important labor market, where the pandemic has continued to impact employers' decisions on keeping staff on the payroll, even during the critical holiday shopping season.
Overall job growth cooled in November as many Americans gave up looking for work. At the same time, many Americans have stopped collecting regular jobless benefits and have switched to collecting pandemic-related assistance, run by state agencies.
On that front, some 9.247 million Americans claimed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits through Dec. 5, while 4.79 million individuals claimed Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, a sign that more people are seeking assistance due to being out of work than even the headline numbers suggest.
At the same time, Congress's $900 billion aid package has been cast in doubt after President Donald Trump called the stimulus bill a "disgrace" and urged that lawmakers boost the stimulus checks due to most Americans to $2,000 from $600.
The bill itself includes additional relief for both workers and employers in the form of additional unemployment benefits and also financial support for companies to keep workers on the job.
The legislation passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, meaning Congress can override a veto by Trump. The president didn't say whether he would veto the bill.