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Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A little more than a week before the programs expire on Dec. 26, claims for pandemic-specific unemployment benefits are spiking with nearly 1 million new people receiving unemployment assistance via the temporary programs, the latest data from the Labor Department show.

What's happening: As of Nov. 28, there were 14 million people receiving unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, an increase of 958,000 from the previous week.

  • 1.4 million Americans filed unemployment claims for the first time last week, with 935,000 filing for traditional unemployment benefits and 455,000 filing claims for the PUA program.

What to watch: The White House and congressional leaders remain at odds on an approximately $900 billion coronavirus relief package that would extend the unemployment programs. It increasingly looks like the talks will drag into the weekend.

The big picture: Unlike in previous weeks when the number of people receiving traditional unemployment benefits was declining and the number of Americans on long-term unemployment programs like the PEUC was rising, the numbers rose across the board in the last week of November.

  • The number of people receiving traditional unemployment benefits rose by 552,000.
  • The number receiving PUA increased by 689,000.
  • PEUC rose by 269,000.
  • Extended Benefits rose by 79,000.
  • In all, the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits increased by 1.6 million.
  • For the week of Nov. 28, 20.6 million Americans were receiving some kind of unemployment benefits

Make it plain: These numbers “really highlight the fragility of the labor market, particularly now as the second resurgence of the coronavirus [is] leading to further business closures and additional job losses,” Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel, told CNBC.

  • More than 247,000 new COVID-19 infections were confirmed in the U.S. and data from the Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project showed a record 113,000 people were hospitalized with the virus.

Pay attention: The Labor Department's seasonally adjusted figures showed 885,000 initial applications for unemployment benefits, 50,000 fewer claims than the unadjusted numbers.

  • The Labor Department has said it agrees with a report from the Government Accountability Office that found its weekly releases "do not provide an accurate estimate of the total number of individuals actually claiming unemployment insurance."

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Economic growth is slowly returning

Data: New York Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Fed's index of real-time data indicators shows the reversal of the economy's progress in late December and early January, but it moved upwards again last week.

Driving the news: Central bankers said the index's rise for the week of Jan. 9 was due to increases in tax withholding, fuel sales and rail traffic, which countered disappointing numbers for initial unemployment insurance claims and a decrease in electricity output.

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.