by Thomas Catenacci
The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims increased slightly to 745,000 last week as the economy continued to suffer the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Labor.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics figure released Thursday represented an increase in the number of new jobless claims compared to the week ending Feb. 20, in which there were 736,000 new jobless claims reported. That number was revised up from the 730,000 jobless claims initially reported last week.
Roughly 18 million Americans continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the labor bureau’s report Thursday.
Economists expected Thursday’s jobless claims number to come in at 750,000, The Wall Street Journal reported. New jobless claims fell below 1 million in the first week of August, which was the first time the weekly claims had fallen below 1 million since March.
“We’ve still got a long ways to go, though it may not seem that way,” Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the WSJ. “We’ve still got a big hole to dig ourselves out of.”
President Joe Biden inherited an economy that has been sluggish in recent weeks and months. The U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first jobs loss since April, and gained a modest 49,000 jobs in January, according to Department of Labor data.
The economy shrank 3.5% in 2020, according to a Jan. 28 Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) report, the worst performance since the 1940s. The U.S. also recorded its sharpest rise in poverty since the 1960s when the poverty rate spiked to 11.8% in December.
But January retail sales surged 5.3%, much higher than expected, according to a recent Commerce Department report.
Jobless claims hovered around 200,000 per week before the pandemic, according to The WSJ. Former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in March as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the world.
The Senate is expected to vote on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package this week. The House passed the bill, which includes unemployment benefits and stimulus payments to Americans, last week along party lines.
Average coronavirus cases and deaths per million have declined in the last month, according to The COVID Tracking Project. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported 2,449 new coronavirus-related deaths and 66,836 new cases while 45,462 Americans remained hospitalized from the virus.
The February unemployment report is set to be released Friday.
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Thomas Catenacci is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Unemployment Insurance Claims Office” by Bytemarks. CC BY 2.0.