Jobless claims preview: Another 775,000 Americans likely filed new unemployment claims last week

New weekly jobless claims likely held virtually unchanged last week from the prior week as states reimposed stay-in-place restrictions throughout November amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Labor is set to release its weekly report on new jobless claims Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main results from the report, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Nov. 28: 775,000 expected vs. 778,000 during prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended Nov. 21: 5.8 million expected vs. 6.071 million during prior week

The tempo of the labor market recovery has closely tracked the cadence of reopenings and closures across the country. New jobless claims began rising again in mid-November after a months’ worth of improvements, as the unchecked spread of the coronavirus spurred a wave of renewed lockdowns in many states. In November alone, new COVID-19 cases topped 4 million, more than doubling the record from October.

To that end, economists are expecting new jobless claims to tick down only slightly last week from the prior week’s elevated level, ticking down by just 3,000. New claims have not yet broken below below 700,000 since the start of the pandemic, though they have come down significantly from the pandemic-era high of nearly 7 million. Before the pandemic, new jobless claims were averaging around 220,000 per week.

Continuing jobless claims, which serve as a barometer for ongoing unemployment, likely fell to a fresh nine-month low of 5.8 million during the week ended November 21.

However, this metric has been pushed lower for months not just because individuals have returned to the workforce, but because others have exhausted state unemployment insurance and rolled onto longer-term federal unemployment benefits.

The number of Americans joining the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offers an additional 13 weeks worth of benefits after individuals use up their allotted six months of continuing benefits, rose by more than 132,000 based on last week’s report. And the number of workers claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – created by the federal government to offer support to self-employed and gig-working Americans – surged by more than 466,000.

But these additional federal unemployment programs are slated to expire by the end of the month, since they were authorized by Congress’s CARES Act back in the spring and have not been renewed as Congress continues to debate the size and scope of another stimulus package.

The lapse in these programs could leave millions of Americans without jobless benefits of any type starting early next year in absence of further stimulus.

“The rapid spread of the virus across the nation is making it harder to find employment this fall and this puts the entire economic recovery from recession in jeopardy if Congress can’t get it together and vote on a new stimulus package before the end of the year,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Union Bank, said in an email Wednesday.

As of last week’s data, 20.5 million Americans were claiming unemployment benefits of some form.

This post will be updated with the U.S. Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report results Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Check back for updates.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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