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Weekly Unemployment Claims Climb by 137,000

Dec. 11, 2020
December 5 saw the highest weekly increase in new applicants since March

Initial data released by the Department of Labor shows that 853,000 Americans applied for initial unemployment benefits during the week of December 5, 137,000 more than those who applied the week previous.

The increase in new applicants is the largest weekly increase since the number of new initial applications shot up to more than 3 million in March. The actual number of new applications is the highest it has been since mid-September.

The concerning upwelling in new claims comes after a decrease in initial unemployment filings for the week of November 28, which included the Thanksgiving holiday: Adjusted figures showed 716,000 people applied for benefits during the week of the holiday, a slight dip from the week of November 21.

The number of applicants for pandemic unemployment assistance also increased, by 139,375 people to 427,609 last week. Pandemic unemployment assistance, provided by the CARES act passed in March, allows some employees—gig workers, subcontractors, and the self-employed—to apply for unemployment insurance they would not otherwise have been eligible for.

At risk with this latest increase is that the pandemic unemployment assistance program is approaching its cut-off point: Unless Congress passes legislation to update it, the pandemic unemployment assistance will stop being distributed after December 26.

The newly resurgent unemployment claims come as COVID-19 continues an uncontained spread across much of the country, prompting states to shut down and issue or re-issue stay-at-home orders.

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