Weekly jobless claims are dropping for the second week in a row

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits for the first time unexpectedly dropped last week, marking a second consecutive decline.

The Labor Department said on Thursday that initial jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 787,000 in the week ending Dec. 26. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial jobless claims to rise to 828,000. Last week’s total initial claims were revised upwards by 3,000 to 806,000.

Continuing claims, which include those who have received unemployment benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, fell by 103,000 to 5.219 million in the week beginning December 19. Data on continuing claims are one week behind the initial claims numbers.

The number of people receiving benefits across all unemployment programs decreased by 800,000 to 19.6 million.

The four-week moving average for first-time applicants increased by 17,750 to 8,36750, indicating that the job market is still under pressure with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no real improvement in the data,” John Riding, an economic advisor at Brean Capital, told CNBC.Squawk Box“What we are seeing is a very difficult time in the economy with the virus recovery that we have seen and the slow implementation of vaccination.”

The United States records at least 181,998 new coronavirus cases each day, based on the seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data. The country’s hospitalization rate from Covid has also soared, surpassing 125,000 for the first time.

“There is good news going forward, but you can’t see it with these numbers,” said Riding. “This good news will come at the point where there is enough [vaccine] In people’s arms and approaching something like herd immunity. Unfortunately, this will not last until the summer. “

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US lawmakers recently approved a $ 900 billion Covid stimulus package that includes $ 600 direct payments to most Americans. This week, the House passed a measure that would raise those payments to $ 2,000, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it.

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