US unemployment claims rise third straight week to 362,000

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the third week in a row, a sign that the highly contagious delta variant could be slowing the job market’s recovery.

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WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the third week in a row, a sign that the highly contagious delta variant could be slowing the job market’s recovery.

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The number, which is a proxy for layoffs, remains high: before the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, they were typically coming in at around 220,000 a week.

America’s employers have sharply increased their hiring since 22 million jobs were slashed in March and April 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak – and the shutdowns are meant to contain it – brought economic activity to a near standstill. Since then, the economy has recovered nearly 17 million jobs as the rollout of vaccines encouraged businesses to expand opening and hours and encouraged Americans to return to bars, restaurants and hotels.

But hiring, which has created an average of more than 585,000 jobs this year, slowed to just 235,000 in August as the Delta variant hampered the recovery. Restaurants and bars cut nearly 42,000 jobs last month as COVID-19 cases hit their first decline this year. More than 560,000 people are expected to be recruited this month; The Department of Labor releases its September jobs report on October 8.

In all, 2.8 million Americans were receiving some form of jobless aid in the week of September 18, which is 18,000 less than the week before. Earlier this month, the federal government stopped additional aid—including $300 a week on top of traditional state benefits—to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.

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