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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.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 21, 2021 - Health

Fighting COVID-19's effects on gender equality

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Women around the world have borne a disproportionate brunt of the social and economic effects of COVID-19.

Why it matters: Women in the U.S. and around the world already faced an unequal playing field before the pandemic. As countries prepare for the post-COVID-19 world, they need to take special care to ensure the virus doesn't permanently set back the cause of gender equality.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.