US weekly jobless claims rise less than forecasted to 745,000 as stimulus nears key vote

unemployment jobless claims
  • US jobless claims totaled 745,000 last week, a slight increase from the prior week’s revised 736,000 total.
  • The reading comes in just below the consensus economist estimate of 750,000 claims.
  • Continuing claims dropped to 4.3 million for the week that ended February 20.
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The number of people filing for unemployment insurance in the US rose less than estimated as Democrats neared a critical vote on President Joe Biden’s stimulus proposal.

New jobless claims reached an unadjusted 745,000 for the week that ended Saturday, according to the Labor Department. The median estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for 750,000 claims. The reading comes in above the previous week’s revised count of 736,000 claims.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, declined to 4.3 million for the week that ended February 20, in line with economist expectations.

“We expect the trend to fall sharply over the next few months, provided the new Covid variants don’t trigger a spring wave in cases and, more importantly, hospitalizations,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said. “The jury is still out.”

More than 80 million filings for unemployment benefits have been made since claims first shot higher nearly one year ago. That sum dwarfs the 37 million filings made during the Great Recession. All weekly readings since March still exceed the high of 665,000 from the previous downturn.


The claims data comes one day after ADP published its monthly count of private payroll additions. The US private sector added 117,000 jobs in February, according to the Wednesday report. The gains come in well below the 200,000 private payrolls expected by economists, signaling a weaker labor market recovery than hoped.

A more detailed look at how hiring fared last month will emerge when the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its monthly nonfarm payrolls data. Economists expect the report to show the US adding 198,000 payrolls in February.

The millions of Americans still jobless could soon receive fresh aid from Washington. House Democrats approved the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act on Saturday, teeing the stimulus package up for a Senate vote in the coming days. The deal includes $1,400 direct payments, a $400 boost to unemployment benefits, and state and local government aid.

Democrats are still split on some tenets of the package. More moderate members of the party have pushed a smaller, $300-per-week supplement to federal unemployment insurance. Others are debating whether the boost should end in August as established in the package or in September.

Compromises have already been made as a result of this moderate pressure. Biden on Wednesday approved a faster phaseout for stimulus checks that leaves individuals earning more than $80,000 and couples making more than $160,000 without payments.

With the Senate vote looming and Democrats needing all 50 Senate members to back the measure, additional changes could be made to shore up support.

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US stocks dip as stimulus hopes waver and jobless claims hit 11-week high

Worried trader
  • US stocks edged lower on Thursday amid disappointing economic data and slowed stimulus progress.
  • New US weekly jobless claims jumped to an unadjusted 853,000 for the week that ended Saturday, handily exceeding the 725,000 estimate. The reading also marks the highest total in 11 weeks.
  • Democrats and Republicans remain at odds over a new fiscal relief package. The House voted Wednesday night to fund the government for an additional week and buy more time for stimulus negotiations.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration will evaluate Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Thursday and vote on whether its benefits outweigh its risks for use in people at least 16 years old.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US stocks fell slightly on Thursday as jobless claims leaped to unexpected highs and Congress hit a new snag in stimulus negotiations.

New filings for unemployment benefits climbed to an unadjusted 853,000 for the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a reading of 725,000 claims. The jump places claims at their highest level in 11 weeks and marks a sharp reversal from the previous week’s revised total of 716,000.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, jumped to 5.8 million for the week that ended November 28. That similarly came in above economist forecasts and marked the first weekly increase since August.

Here’s where US indexes stood shortly after the 9:30 a.m. ET open on Thursday:

Read more: Cathie Wood is beating 99% of fund managers this year. The ARK CEO and her team share their outlooks for 2021 – including thoughts on Tesla’s $5 billion stock sale, the Salesforce-Slack tie-up, and bitcoin’s meteoric rise.

“The jump in weekly unemployment claims was partially due to a rebound from lower claims during Thanksgiving week, but the trend of more Americans losing jobs is clearly rising over the last month,” Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, said.

On the stimulus front, Democratic and Republican leaders remain at odds over key elements of their respective proposals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a package that omitted pandemic-related liability protections for businesses and state and local government aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi balked at the proposal, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the need for more state and local relief.

The House voted Wednesday night to fund the government for another week and buy extra time for stimulus talks.

Read more: We spoke to the top 5 European fund managers of 2020 to uncover their tips and tools for delivering stellar returns – and their star stock-picks for 2021

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite underperformed peer indexes as Facebook slid lower. The social media giant fell after the US Federal Trade Commission filed lawsuits that could force Facebook to divest Instagram and WhatsApp.

The US Food and Drug Administration convened to evaluate Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. A panel will vote on Thursday on whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks for use in people at least 16 years old.

Airbnb is set to begin trading on Thursday after raising $3.5 billion in its initial public offering. The debut comes after DoorDash shares nearly doubled in the company’s first day of public trading.

Bitcoin fell to a 24-hour low of $18,021.45 before bouncing back above $18,100. The token has steadily trended lower after hitting record highs in early December.

Read more: Morgan Stanley is warning that the stock market’s economic recovery trade may soon be over. Here are 4 strategies they recommend for finding the returns that still exist.

Gold edged as much as 0.4% higher, to $1,847.75 per ounce. The US dollar weakened against a basket of Group-of-20 currencies and Treasury yields fell. 

Oil prices gained on vaccine hopes. West Texas Intermediate crude rose as much as 1.8%, to $46.33 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, jumped 1.9%, to $49.77 per barrel, at intraday highs.

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