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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.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.