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Jobless Claims Are Heading in the Wrong Direction

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First-time claims for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in more four months Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic's resurgence in many parts of the country prompted businesses to regroup on their staffing and hiring.

The Labor Department said that 1.416 million Americans filed jobless claims for the week ended July 18, up from a revised 1.3 million claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting 1.3 million claims up to last Saturday.

Continuing claims, which are the number of people not just filing but staying on unemployment benefits, came in at 16.197 million for the week ended July 11. The continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market.

The numbers mark the 18th straight week in which initial claims have rung in by more than 1 million, and strongly suggests re-hiring intentions remain fragile as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact not only businesses' physical operations but also consumers' and individuals' comfort levels with going out in public - and spending money. 

Indeed, Thursday's numbers suggest a retrenchment from the past 16-plus weeks of semi-recovery in the jobs market, when initial claims for jobless benefits had settled to around 1.3 million a week following a peak of 6.9 million in late March. Before 2020, the highest weekly record was 695,000 in 1982.

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