After grueling year, latest weekly initial jobless claims remain elevated, at 787,000

The number of Americans filing initial weekly jobless claims totaled 787,000 last week, as consumers and businesses continue to navigate restrictive measures amid a rapid increase in coronavirus infections.

After a grueling year of job losses, economists had predicted a total of 835,000 claims for the week ended Dec. 26, an increase from the previous week’s revised tally of 806,000.

Despite new vaccines and the passage of a federal emergency aid package, new applications for unemployment benefits remain at four times that of the pre-pandemic average — but well below the March peak of almost 7 million claims.

Lawmakers this week approved an extension to emergency unemployment benefits, with President Donald Trump agreeing late Sunday night to extend relief payments of $300 a week through March 14. However, the number of continuing claims — people who cannot find a job and receive ongoing unemployment benefits — remains just above 5 million, which is at least three times its usual level, underscoring the nation’s sluggish labor market recovery.

The broader economy is showing signs of weakening at the end of a challenging year, with both consumer spending and consumer confidence down last month as shoppers continue to stay home, curbing spending on items such as cars, clothing and dining out. New home sales for November also fell to a five-month low.