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Number of Americans applying for jobless aid drops to 787,000

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell sharply last week, indicating that job losses have eased slightly, seven months after the labor market was slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

About 787,000 people filed for state unemployment benefits in the week ending October 17, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. Another 345,000 applied for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, a federal program for those who don't qualify for regular state benefits.

Economists had expected about 870,000 jobless applications to be reported this week. Thursday's figure is much lower than expected partly thanks to revised figures from California, the state with the most unemployment applications.

"This a welcome decline compared to mid-September when total initial claims hovered around 1.45 million," AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at the Indeed hiring lab, said in a note. 

Nonetheless, the absolute level of people applying for aid remains historically high. Before the pandemic, the record for initial unemployment claims filed in a single week was 695,000.

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