The number of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time declined unexpectedly last week, which was the second consecutive decline.
The initial claims for unemployment fell by 19,000 to 787,000 in the week ended December 26, the Department of Labor said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected initial unemployment claims to rise to 828,000. The previous week’s total for initial claims was revised upwards by 3,000 to 806,000.
To be sure, the four-week moving average of files rose by 17,750 to 836,750 for the first time, indicating that the labor market is still under pressure as the coronavirus pandemic rages.
“There’s no real improvement in the data,” John Ryding, an economic adviser at Brean Capital, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “What we are seeing is a very difficult time in the economy with the virus uptake we have seen and the slow vaccination of the vaccine.”
The U.S. records at least 181,998 new cases of coronavirus every day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data. The country’s Covid hospitalization rate has also skyrocketed and is above 125,000 for the first time.
U.S. lawmakers recently approved a $ 900 billion Covid incentive package that includes direct payments of $ 600 to most Americans. This week, the House passed a measure that would increase payments to $ 2,000, but the Senate blocked it.
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