Initial Jobless Claims Ease Slightly

Worried Japanese job hunter at cafe looks up from tablet disappointed. Photographed in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan through window. Relfection of the sun and surrounding city on the glass.

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The number of people initiating claims for unemployment benefits fell 26,000 to 900,000 last week, a slight easing during a worrisome period for the tenuous U.S. job market.

The 900,000 initial jobless claims for the week through Jan. 16 was worse than the 872,511 consensus estimate of economists polled by Moody’s Analytics. Seasonally-adjusted data released by the Department of Labor Thursday also showed a revised figure for the previous week: 926,000 rather than 965,000. 

The labor market continues to struggle as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps people at home, tamping down economic activity. At more than four times pre-pandemic levels, initial unemployment claims are higher than they’ve been at the peak of any past recession, according to Moody’s. Economists say the numbers should improve once more people are vaccinated against the virus and if the federal government provides additional fiscal relief.