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Jobless claims: Another 793,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims last week

New weekly unemployment claims pulled back slightly but held at elevated levels last week, and the prior week’s new claims were upwardly revised as the coronavirus pandemic exerted more pressure on the labor market.

The Department of Labor released its weekly report on new jobless claims Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main results from the report, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Feb. 6: 793,000 vs. 760,000 expected and a revised 812,000 during the prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended Jan. 30: 4.545 million vs. 4.420 million expected and a revised 4.690 million during the prior week

New weekly jobless claims fell relative to the prior week’s level, which was upwardly revised to 812,000 from the 779,000 previously reported. This brought new claims for the week ended February 6 to the lowest level in five weeks. And despite last week’s upward revision, the four-week moving average for new claims fell by 33,500 to 823,000.

By state, some of the most populous parts of the country saw encouragingly large drops in unadjusted new jobless claims last week. Florida saw by far the greatest decrease, with unadjusted initial jobless claims dropping by more than 51,000 last week. New York followed by a wide margin, with new claims in the state dropping by nearly 20,000. New claims in Maryland dropped by more than 19,000 as well, and initial claims in Texas fell by more than 13,600. On the other hand, California saw another surge in new claims, with these rising by more than 23,000.

On the whole, new jobless claims have been tracking a decline in COVID-19 cases, with the rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths retreating after a holiday spike. Over the past week, an average of about 105,000 cases were reported per day, dropping 36% from the average of two weeks earlier, according to data compiled by the New York Times. And the Biden administration recently boosted the weekly supply of COVID-19 vaccines sent to states by 28% to 11 million, offering hopes that widespread immunity could allow for faster reopenings and rehirings.

“The U.S. is in a much better position than we expected so early in the year and, as a result, pressure on governors to reopen is going to build more quickly,” Ian Shepherdson, Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist, wrote in a note ahead of Thursday’s report.

In the meantime, however, millions of Americans remain unemployed and reliant on state and federal unemployment benefits for support. The number of initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which offers jobless benefits for gig and self-employed workers who do not qualify for regular state programs, declined by about 34,000 last week. However, based on the latest data, more than 20.4 million Americans were still claiming benefits of some form, marking an increase of more than 2.5 million from the prior week. That included more than 13 million on either PUA or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, another federal program.

Both the PUA and PEUC are slated to expire in mid-March in the absence of additional action out of Congress. Congressional committees this week have been drafting legislation for another virus-relief package, after both the House of Representatives and Senate voted last week to press ahead with pursuing a package via a legislative process that would not require Republican support. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Yahoo Finance earlier this week that it would be “absolutely unacceptable” to not pass another stimulus bill before the March unemployment cliff.

This post is breaking. Check back for updates.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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