Huge step in the wrong direction: Unemployment claims soar

The American jobs crisis is escalating again.

Another 965,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis in the United States last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

That was substantially higher than the previous week, in which 784,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits.

Weekly first-time jobless claims are stuck at an uncomfortably high level. In late August, the figure dropped below 1 million, but since then, significant improvements have been hard to come by — and last week represented a huge step in the wrong direction.

On top of regular claims, 284,470 workers filed claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The program provides aid to people like the self-employed or gig workers, who aren’t covered under regular benefits. After the new stimulus deal extended the program, it is now slated to end in March.

Added together, initial benefit claims totaled 1.4 million last week, excluding seasonal adjustments.

Continued claims, which count workers who have claimed aid for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 5.3 million in the week ended January 2.

This is a developing story. It will be updated