Number of Americans applying for jobless aid jumps to highest level in 2 months

Author: IRINA IVANOVA, CBS MoneyWatch
(Getty Images via CBS News)

The number of Americans applying for jobless aid hit a two-month high last week, a sign the labor market may be slowing.

Some 898,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending October 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. That figure, adjusted for seasonal variation, is up by 53,000 from the previous week and the highest level of jobless claims since mid-August.

Another 373,000 workers applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program for those who don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

“Seven months into the pandemic and on the verge of winter, the labor market is on thin ice,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in an email.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the U.S., raising concerns about further lockdowns, and employers have been hesitant to hire ahead of the typically busy holiday season. Indeed’s figures show that hiring remained flat from last week, and 17% below its typical level, Konkel noted. Major employers including DisneyUnited Airlines and American Airlines recently announced tens of thousands of additional job cuts.

“Overall, the signal from the claims data is still one of extremely weak conditions in the labor market,” Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics said in a report. “Layoffs are ongoing at an elevated level. Job growth has moderated, and rising virus infections pose a downside risk for businesses.”

Some 25 million people, or about 1 in 6 workers, are currently receiving unemployment benefits of some kind.

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