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Jobless claims surge to highest weekly total since August

First-time claims for unemployment insurance jumped to 965,000 last week amid signs of a slowdown in hiring due to pandemic restrictions, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The total was worse than Wall Street estimates of 800,000 and above the previous week’s total of 784,000.

Markets reacted little to the number, as the decline in economic activity is expected to be met with more stimulus from Washington. President-elect Joe Biden later Thursday is announcing his hopes for another package likely in excess of $1 trillion.

Futures continued to indicate an opening gain on Wall Street.

Still, the number for the week ended Jan. 9 was another sign of economic turmoil brought on by restrictions in activity aimed at combating the virus spread. The total was the highest since the week of Aug. 22, when just over 1 million claims were filed.

Continuing claims also were higher, rising 199,000 to 5.27 million. That figure runs a week behind the weekly claims total and increased for the first time since late November.

The total of those receiving benefits under all government declined sharply despite the rise in the weekly numbers. That level fell to 18.4 million from 19.2 million in the previous week. The data runs two weeks behind the weekly claims total. The decrease came primarily from a slide in those filing for emergency pandemic claims.

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