Jobless Claims Remain Historically High at 840,000 Last Week

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits reaches 840,000 in the last week.

Jobless claims remain historically high, with the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits at 840,000 in the last week.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 840,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits for the week ended Oct. 3, down from an upwardly revised 849,000 claims the week earlier. 

The number marks the sixth straight week of claims below 1 million since the pandemic shut down the U.S. economy in late March. However, analysts noted this continues to reflect a change in the way the Labor Department makes its seasonal adjustments, which applied for the first time to the last jobless claims report for August.

Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing for the first time but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 10.976 million for the week ended Sept. 26, down from a revised 11.979 million the previous week, the Labor Department said.

However, analysts note the drop in continuing claims represents 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. 

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About 1.8 million people were receiving aid through this extended-benefits program in the week ended Sept. 12, up from 1.6 million a week earlier, Labor Department data show.

Indeed, the labor market and economy more broadly are flashing signs of a slowdown. Monthly job gains and job postings have cooled, and more layoffs are becoming permanent - particularly as Congress and the White House remain at loggerheads on another round of aid for businesses that are relying on government support to keep workers on the job.

On Tuesday, President Trump halted negotiations with Democrats on a larger coronavirus relief package until after the election, reducing the likelihood of further federal unemployment aid in the near term.

Another caveat to Thursday's numbers: They did not take into account jobless claims within the country's biggest state. California last month said it would temporarily stop accepting new unemployment applications while it addresses a huge processing backlog and puts in place procedures to weed out fraud.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Sept. 26 were in Maryland (+3,619), Illinois (+3,414), New Jersey (+2,504), Michigan (+2,358), and Massachusetts (+1,886), while the largest decreases were in Texas (-7,075), Florida (-6,655), Georgia (-5,895), New York (-5,112), and Oregon (-2,317).