Number of the Day Shows Stubborn Unemployment

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the number 36 on a light blue background with a pattern of small triangles

That’s the number of weeks in a row that more Americans have filed for unemployment than during the Great Recession, according to new data from the Department of Labor.

The number of people filing for regular state unemployment programs rose for the second week in a row, reaching 778,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, said a report released Wednesday. A further 311,675 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a special program for self-employed people and gig workers, bringing the total of new jobless claims well above 1 million and far exceeding the worst week of jobless claims during the Great Recession, which came in March 2009 when 665,000 people filed for unemployment.

The unemployment figures, which were worse than analyst expectations, contrasted with the optimistic attitude of Wall Street traders, who on Tuesday sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average over 30,000 for the first time in history, thanks to good news about COVID-19 vaccine candidates. 

Analysts said the unemployment report was a poor sign for the economy. “The risk may be for a further rise in claims as coronavirus cases surge at a record rate,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics, in written commentary Wednesday.

Meanwhile, another government report released Wednesday highlighted the importance of unemployment benefits to the economy: personal income fell 0.7% in October, largely due to the end of a government program that had provided a $300 boost to unemployment benefits for six weeks.