The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Unemployment claims remain at historically high levels, as pandemic continues to drag economy

People wait in line at a food distribution site in a Brooklyn neighborhood on Sept. 29. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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The number of new claims filed for unemployed remained at historically high levels, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.

The number of initial claims inched down — from 849,000 to 840,000 last week. The number of new claims for gig and self-employed workers dropped from about 650,000 to 460,000.

All told, about 25.5 million people are collecting some kind of unemployment insurance. The number of jobless claims have fallen from their peak in the spring, but the rate has slowed in recent months.

“The story is, we’ve hit a plateau in unemployment claims,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “That is going to hurt the jobless rate and lead to more people eventually leaving the labor force.”

The numbers come in the final weeks before the presidential election on Nov. 3. President Trump has touted the fact that some of the labor market’s indicators from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic have improved, such as the unemployment rate.

Yet unemployment claims remain above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 a week.

Frick said that the high level of jobless claims continuing more than six months into the pandemic was a bad sign for the economic recovery.

“We’ve been here so long, and I’m not seeing the kind of job creation that would lead us to believe that these claims are going to fall,” he said.

Economists, as well as Federal Reserve policymakers, have been warning the recovery could deteriorate without further aid from Washington for struggling businesses and households.