The number of Americans applying for jobless aid decreased modestly last week. Roughly 709,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending November 7, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's a drop of nearly 50,000 from the previous week, and the lowest weekly claims figure since March.
"This is the fourth week unemployment claims have fallen, and while the pace is slow, we are seeing the jobs market clawing its way back," Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, said in a statement. "Still, with more than 1 million weekly claims total, there are millions of Americans each month laid off. And with COVID-19 cases hitting new daily records, the downward trend in claims could reverse."
Another 298,000 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a special federal program for gig workers and others who don't qualify for regular unemployment benefits. That figure fell by 63,000 from the previous week.
Although fewer people are seeking unemployment assistance, weekly jobless claims remain nearly three times their level before the. That indicates layoffs remain widespread even as large parts of the economy recover.
As of October, employers hadof the 22 million workers who lost their jobs during the peak of the pandemic this spring. But recent labor data show that job growth is slowing, with two unemployed workers for every current job opening.
With new COVID-19 cases reaching a record 145,000 a day and some states reimposing business restrictions, economists fear the recovery could soon hit a wall. In recent days, the virus's resurgence has triggered tighter controls on businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, in states including Maryland, New York Oregon and Texas.
Failure in Washington, D.C., to deliver another dose of financial relief to individuals and businesses also threatens to hamstring the recovery, analysts warn.
"Despite the prospects for an effective vaccine on the horizon, the resurgence in COVID-19 infections and looming expiration of fiscal support represent significant downside risks to the economy in the near term," Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics said in a report.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.