The number of new applications for unemployment benefits last week was 1.43 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday, marking a second consecutive week of higher claims.
The slight rise in claims of about 12,000 on the week is a troubling sign of danger for the economic recovery and job creation.
An additional 829,697 people filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a special program to provide relief for people sidelined by the pandemic who normally wouldn't be eligible for unemployment, such as independent contractors whose work dried up.
Barring an eleventh-hour agreement between congressional Republicans and Democrats, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit will expire on Friday. Over 12 million workers claimed the benefit for the week ending July 11.
Contributing to the increase in jobless claims is the surge of virus infections that have closed businesses again in recent weeks in several parts of the country and prompted worry in the small-business sector. Two-thirds of small business owners fear the pandemic will force them to close their doors, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll.
The level of concern about shutting down is particularly high, 85%, for businesses that suffered through the economic shutdown earlier in the year and then struggled to reopen. The threat of shutting down again has prompted owners to reevaluate staffing and future layoffs.
Economists expected that jobless claims would total 1.445 million last week.
The losses reported on Thursday come on the heels of job gains in May and June, 2.7 million and 4.8 million, respectively.
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