The number of new applications for unemployment benefits last week increased 30,000 from last week’s claims to 778,000, the Labor Department reported Wednesday, in a troubling sign for the recovery.
Wednesday’s report marks the second consecutive week that unemployment claims increased.
Altogether, roughly 1 million workers filed for benefits last week, when including claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new category of eligibility created for workers sidelined by the pandemic, such as gig workers whose work dried up.
“New claims for unemployment benefits are moving up, moving in the wrong direction much the same as the pandemic is raging here in the final weeks of a heartbreakingly difficult year,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com's senior economic analyst.
The increase in claims comes as coronavirus infections skyrocket across the country. The nation went from fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases each day in early October to well over 150,000 new daily cases in late November, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The spike in virus cases has prompted a number of states to limit or prohibit visits to restaurants and bars.
Seating capacity has been restricted in states such as Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Maine, and Maryland.
Restaurants in Michigan can only provide carryout service.
In New York state, restaurants must shut down operations from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
The surge in COVID-19 infections has caused a backslide in patronage at restaurants, according to OpenTable. In October, reservations were off by roughly 40% in many restaurants when compared to last year. They are now off by over 70% in several spots.
The increase in infections has also lowered consumer confidence.
The increase in infections has prompted consumer confidence to fade, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit think tank that provides economic projections.
Its latest data, released Tuesday, showed that the economy is not expected to gain strength in the coming months.
“Heading into 2021, consumers do not foresee the economy, nor the labor market, gaining strength,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “In addition, the resurgence of COVID-19 is further increasing uncertainty and exacerbating concerns about the outlook.”
Its index now stands at 96.1, down from a revised 101.4 in October. The consumer confidence numbers are indexed to 1985, and a number at 100 or above signals that confidence is strong.
Tuesday’s report shows that confidence has dropped out of positive territory.
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