Unemployment benefit claims increased in the United States

New measures to contain the pandemic may lead to further layoffs

The number of applications for unemployment benefits in the United States increased last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

Taking seasonal variations into account, a total of 742,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits, 31,000 more than the revised figure for the week before last.

For the fifth consecutive week, the number of applications has kept below 800,000.

According to the Labor Department, there are 6.4 million unemployed in the country and the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent. At the peak of the pandemic in April, that figure reached 14.7 percent.

However, the U.S. has recently registered more than 170,000 new coronavirus cases per day. The spike in infections is forcing some state and municipal authorities to restrain business activity, which could lead to new layoffs.

New restrictions could lead to further layoffs in the coming weeks as retail stores cut opening hours, restaurants close, and entertainment and cultural centers cancel live performances. Because of the cold, there will also be limited outdoor activities.

Health authorities are encouraging Americans to stay home the following week before Thanksgiving, which is next Thursday. It is usually at this time that millions of Americans travel around the country to visit relatives.

About a third of the unemployed have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. In April, that figure was 4.1 percent.

Three weeks ago, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew 7.4 percent between July and September, but a slowdown is expected in the last quarter.

Congress has resumed work since the election, but so far there is no sign of compromise on the new Coronavirus package of economic assistance.

It remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump will be able to reach an agreement with Congress before he is expected to step down on January 20. Trump has not acknowledged his electoral defeat and is challenging the results of the vote count.

It’s also unclear what role Democrat Joe Biden, who is considered the winner of the presidential election, could play in negotiating the aid package. He called for immediate acceptance of the aid package, which was approved a few months ago by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not bring it to the table.

Re-elected Republican Majority Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell expressed the hope that Congress would approve additional aid by the end of 2020, but that it would be significantly less than what Democrats considered necessary.

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