770,000 new jobless claims as COVID-19 layoffs continue to increase

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A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits continues to increase from last week as the labor market’s coronavirus crisis reached the one-year mark as reported by the federal government.

The latest batch of 770,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to nearly 81.9 million — a number equivalent to more than half the nation’s workforce.

Weekly jobless filings have now hovered above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 52 straight weeks even as declining infections, loosening business restrictions and rising vaccinations have helped the job market recover in recent months.

Economists were expecting jobless filings to drop to 700,000 last week from the prior week’s 725,000, according to Wrightson ICAP. That would have been the lowest weekly figure since COVID-19 caused a historic employment crisis a year ago.

In 2020, one in four American workers has received at least one unemployment payment as officials shelled out a whopping $637 billion in state and federal jobless aid, according to an analysis by the Century Foundation.