Government data released the day after Joe Biden entered the White House made clear the scale of the employment crisis facing the new US president as the country struggles to make it through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The United States saw 900,000 new filings for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, a massive number that remains well above the single worst week of the 2008-2010 global financial crisis, during which Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama.
Economists had been expecting a sharper drop in seasonally adjusted claims in the week ended January 16, but instead they fell just 26,000 from the prior week, underscoring the toll taken by the renewed onslaught of Covid-19 in the United States.
The government also reported 423,734 new filings made under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed people not normally eligible for benefits.
That was nearly double the week prior after that program lapsed briefly amid a standoff in Washington over extending it and other aid. All told, nearly 16 million people were receiving some form of aid from the government as of January 2 -- a figure that's expected to rise. "Layoffs are ongoing at an elevated pace, reflecting the impact of containment measures," Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said in an analysis.
"Conditions are unlikely to improve until infections can be curbed, and the economy can reopen more completely.
New jobless filings skyrocketed after states and cities restricted business across the country when Covid-19 broke out in March, and though they've come down from the millions initially reported each week as businesses shed employees en masse, they remain at very high levels.