Weekly unemployment claims jump to nearly one million as virus rages on

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to almost a million people as the latest unemployment figures still remain at levels never seen until the virus struck.

The latest report released by the Labor Department Thursday shows that the number of people filing for jobless benefits increased by 181,000 to a total of 965,000, the most since late August. The previous week showed a slight decrease.

“The rise and level of new unemployment claims is shocking, at the highest point seen since late August,” said Mark Hamrick, senior analyst at Bankrate. “This reminds us that the economic crisis has not gone away, far from it, at a time when multiple crises have been vying for our attention. It hasn’t helped that administration of COVID-19 vaccines has been slow to gather momentum since the pandemic is at the epicenter of the economy’s ills.”

The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits is now 5.2 million, an increase of 199,000.

The high pace of layoffs coincides with an economy that has faltered as consumers have avoided traveling, shopping and eating out in the face of soaring viral caseloads. More than 4,300 deaths were reported Tuesday, another record high

“According to a Bankrate survey, fewer than 4 in 10 U.S. adults tell us they could absorb an expense of a-thousand dollars or more by tapping savings,” said Hamrick. “This is the kind of expense one could experience arising from a surprise car repair or emergency room visit, or common occurrences, broadly speaking, in the course of individuals’ lives.”

Many more Americans are receiving jobless aid from two federal programs — one that provides extended benefits to people who have exhausted their state aid and another that supplies benefits to self-employed and contract workers.

Last week the Labor Department released its monthly report on the country’s employment situation which showed employers cut 140,000 jobs last month, marking the first decline in eight months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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