Coronavirus

How many Americans claimed unemployment benefit last week?

Coronavirus battered the US economy all summer and while stock markets are soaring this week, recovery is still painfully slow in the job market.

How many Americans claimed unemployment benefit last week?
BRENDAN MCDERMID REUTERS

Last week economists predicted that 735,000 new jobless benefits claims would be made, but the reality is that it hit 778,000. That figure is not only much higher than the previous week’s 748,000; it’s the highest number of new claimants in five weeks and the second week in a row that first-time claims rose. The last time that happened was in late July.

The latest unemployment benefits figures were released on Wednesday, one day early due to Thanksgiving, by the Labor Department.

The report also showed that 4.5 million more people received Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits from the government as of the week of 7 November. As of the same date, a total of more than 20.4 million US citizens were still receiving some form of jobless relief. That’s an increase of 135,000 from the previous week.

Stock markets soaring, job market stalling

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones hit a record all time high of 30,000 after investors were encouraged by positive news on two promising coronavirus vaccines and the news that the official transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden would finally be beginning, after three weeks of uncertainty and chaos. The peak came as Biden appointed a market-friendly Treasurer to his administration, former Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen.

Meanwhile, many average Americans are struggling day to day, as more explicit and strict social distancing policies are being implemented across many states. School closures, limitations or closures for businesses and stay-at-home mandates are affecting ordinary folks’ ability to keep working and keep businesses afloat in many sectors.

Would stimulus help with unemployment?

Depending on the size and scope of the new bill, and if and when it eventually comes, yes it could really help. Hopes are now mounting that Joe Biden will focus on passing a stimulus bill in January after his inauguration, but that does little to help people who are out of work, and struggling right now. It looks as though the last trickles of enhanced unemployment benefits are to dry up come 26 December, which leaves many people in the lurch for more than a month if they’re waiting for Biden to sweep in and fix things.

Economists: “This economy demands fiscal aid now”

"It is quite clear that the intensification of the pandemic, the pullback by the public and government mandated lockdowns are clearly combining to cause an increase in first time claims," said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist with RSM US, in a report Wednesday morning, according to CNN.

"Despite the potential arrival of a mass produced and distributed vaccine, this economy demands fiscal aid now," he added.