US jobless claims drop to 787,000, but layoffs remain high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses may have eased slightly but are still running at historically high levels.

Last week’s figure was down from 842,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The government also revised down the number of people who sought aid in the two weeks before that.

The revised total for the week that ended Oct. 3 was 767,000, the fewest since the viral pandemic erupted in March, though still more than three times the levels that preceded the pandemic.

Economists welcomed the declines as evidence that the job market is still recovering from the pandemic recession.

But some cautioned that the improvement could prove short-lived. With confirmed infections having neared 60,000 in the past week, the most since July, consumers have been unable or reluctant to shop, travel, dine out or congregate in crowds — a trend that has led some employers to keep cutting jobs.

Several states are reporting a record number of hospitalizations from the virus.

“We doubt it will continue as COVID infections spread rapidly, pushing down demand for discretionary consumer services, especially in the hospitality sector,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, referring to the portion of the economy that includes hard-hit hotels, restaurants and bars.

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