Dec 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

803,000 Americans file first-time jobless claims in week before Christmas

Picture of a closed business in Maine
Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor reported 803,000 initial unemployment claims last week, a drop of 89,000 from the week prior.

Why it matters: The number of Americans on unemployment benefits remains high, though the figures released Wednesday were lower than the 888,000 that economists had expected.

Driving the news: The report comes a day after President Trump suggested he may not sign Congress' $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, potentially delaying desperately needed aid for millions of Americans.

  • The bill includes an extension of two pandemic-related unemployment programs, used by 14 million Americans, that expire on Dec. 26.
  • 397,511 people filed for benefits last week under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides subsidies to those who aren't normally eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Trump's threat runs the risk of worsening the country's economic recovery and increases the chances of a government shutdown during the pandemic.

The bottom line: Although the number of unemployment claims was less than expected, it is another sign that the country's job recovery still has a long way to go to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

  • According to the Labor Department, there were 287,243 initial claims for the same week last year.
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