US Jobless Claims Rise Again, Disappointing Economists

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Initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week, another sign the U.S. labor market continues to struggle as new COVID-19 restraints ripple through the economy.

Marking the second straight weekly increase, seasonally-adjusted initial unemployment claims increased by 23,000 to 885,000—the highest level since September, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. Economists had expected a decline, to an average of about 768,000 claims, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Initial claims, a leading indicator of the unemployment picture, are trending in the wrong direction and could signal that the surge in COVID-19 cases has the tenuous job market at a turning point. Economists including Sal Guatieri of BMO Capital Markets said payrolls could decline in December for the first time since April, when much of the country was shut down to curb the spread of the virus.

Under a special federal pandemic program for self-employed workers and others ineligible for regular unemployment insurance, initial claims rose by 40,000 to 455,037.