Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise to 898,000

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After spending several weeks in a rut, barely improving, U.S. jobless claims moved higher in the week ending October 10 to 898,000.

That is 53,000 claims above the prior week’s level. Economists had expected claims to decline to 830,000.

Hopes for an economic support package from Congress have been dashed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s determination not to do a deal with the Trump administration before election day.

Airlines have started laying off thousands of workers due to lack of demand for flights. A deal that had provided them with billions of funding in exchange for keeping workers on the payroll expired at the end of September.

Claims hit a record 6.87 million for the week of March 27. Until a month ago, each subsequent week had seen claims decline. But in late July, the labor market appeared to stall and claims hovered around one million throughout August, a level so high it was never recorded before the pandemic struck.

Now claims have begun rising again, setting off alarm bells that employers have begun to shed workers at a more rapid pace.

The 4-week moving average, which may be a more reliable measure of the health of the jobs market because it smoothes out week-to-week volatility, rose to 866,250, which is 8,000 above the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 1,250 from 858,250.

Continuing claims, which get reported with a week’s lag, came in at 10,018,000, a decrease of 1,165,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

The decline in continuing claims may be a silver lining in the report. It indicates that those who have lost their jobs are finding new work. It’s likely that the decline in the level of federal enhancement to unemployment benefits, from $600 per week to $300, has encouraged some workers to seek jobs.

The highest insured unemployment rates are in Hawaii, California, and Nevada.

Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs and have been closely watched as a signal for how the pandemic is influencing the economy. Prior to the pandemic, weekly jobless claims had been running around 200,000.