US workers file 898,000 jobless claims as COVID-19 chokes labor market

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Some 898,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic kept the labor market in a chokehold, the feds said Thursday.

The latest figure brought the seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims filed during the COVID-19 crisis to roughly 64.5 million — a total larger than the combined populations of California and Florida.

Last week’s filings reported by the US Department of Labor surged from the prior week’s revised total of 845,000 and outpaced economists’ expectations for 825,000 new claims. But the data may have been distorted as California once again paused its reporting to work through a backlog of claims and implement anti-fraud technology.

Jobless claims have hovered between 800,000 and 900,000 for seven consecutive weeks as the labor market’s recovery from the virus crisis appeared to stall. Last week’s total remained well above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 filings in a single week.

Continuing claims, which measure ongoing joblessness on a one-week lag, fell once again to about 10 million in the week ending Oct. 3. The steady decline in those numbers is likely due to jobless workers exhausting the 26 weeks of benefits that most states provide, experts say.

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