First-time filings for unemployment insurance were little changed over the past week despite other indicators that the labor market weakened at the end of the 2020.
Weekly claims totaled 787,000 for the week ended Jan. 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was less than the Dow Jones estimate of 815,000 and a slight decrease from the upwardly revised total of 790,000 for the previous week.
The report also showed a drop of 126,000 in continuing claims, taking the total down to 5.07 million. Those receiving benefits from all programs also fell, declining by 420,000 to 19.2 million.
Claims remain well above pre-pandemic levels as a continued surge in Covid-19 cases has caused economic restrictions in states and municipalities across the country.
On Wednesday, ADP reported that private hiring contracted for the first time since April as companies shed 123,000 in December. That tally showed that almost all the layoffs came at big businesses and in the hospitality industry as hotels, restaurants and bars have taken an especially hard hit by the winter resurgence in the pandemic.
The weekly claims figure comes a day ahead of the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report.
The Labor Department is expected to report Friday that the U.S. economy added just 50,000 jobs as a tumultuous 2020 came to a close, while the unemployment rate is seen edging higher to 6.8%, according to Dow Jones estimates.
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