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Jobless Claims Reflect Companies' Ongoing Reluctance to Hire

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Jobless claims continue to hold at historically high levels as the labor market continues to see-saw amid the coronavirus pandemic and its back-and-forth effect on companies' need for workers.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 870,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits for the week ended Sept. 19, up from a revised 860,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 850,000.

The number marks the fourth consecutive week of claims below 1 million since the pandemic shut down the U.S. economy in late March. However, analysts noted this was mostly due to 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 12.58 million for the week ended Sept. 12, revised downward from 12.747 the previous week, the Labor Department said.

Jobless claims have fallen significantly from a peak of near 7 million in late March but have stagnated at just over 800,000 in recent weeks - roughly four times the levels recorded by the Labor Department before the virus rolled across the U.S.

Indeed, while the economy has regained approximately half of the jobs lost in the pandemic, hiring has slowed in recent months as resurgences of the virus have percolated throughout the country, and as firms and businesses pause and assess their staffing needs amid the economy's stimulus-fueled, boomerang rebound.

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