CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The first reported unemployment numbers of 2021 show still-elevated levels of Americans filing new jobless claims as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell slightly to 787,000 last week, down by about 3,000 from the week prior.
The number of people who are receiving regular state unemployment aid fell 125,000 to 5.1 million, and fewer people were on extended unemployment benefit programs.
“We see still heartbreakingly elevated levels of new unemployment claims with more than 19 million Americans recently receiving some form of jobless assistance,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst.
The figures are released as Americans have begun receiving $600 coronavirus relief checks following President Donald Trump’s sign-off on a $900 billion pandemic relief package to deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals.
“One can take only a modest amount of solace from the fact that a fresh round of unemployment assistance was approved, meaning that those most in need weren’t pushed over a cliff after Christmas,” Hamrick said. “It is likely that further assistance including larger stimulus payments will be on the way under the new Congress and presidential administration.”
On Friday, the government will issue a jobs report for December. Economists expect it to show that hiring slowed for a sixth straight month — and possibly that employers shed positions for the first time since the job market collapsed in April just after the pandemic erupted.
“The December employment report, due Friday at 8:30 am EST from the Labor Department, is expected to indicate that the job market failed to substantially heal last month,” Hamrick said. “Economists look for barely any jobs creation, 100,000 jobs added, while the unemployment rate itself is expected to edge up 0.1% to 6.8%. This would be the weakest jobs report since the recovery began last May, following the loss of 22 million jobs in the two previous months.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.