U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Down from Last Week

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, but remained significantly high, suggesting the labour market was stalling as the country battles a resurgence in new COVID-19 cases that is threatening a budding economic recovery.

Information released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 1.186 million for the week ended Aug. 1, compared to 1.435 million in the prior week. Economists had forecast 1.415 million applications in the latest week.

Coronavirus cases soared across the country last month, forcing authorities in some of the hard-hit areas in the West and South to either shut down businesses again or pause re-openings, sending workers back home again. Though infections have eased about 5% nationally, they jumped last week in Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri and 17 other states.

The pandemic is hurting demand for goods and services, broadening layoffs to sectors of the economy that were not initially impacted when nonessential businesses like restaurants and bars were shuttered in mid-March to slow the spread of the respiratory illness. Businesses are also cautious about hiring.