Claims for jobless benefits hit lowest level in four weeks

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 this week, but remain elevated at 787,000 as a resurgent coronavirus grips the U.S. economy.

While at the lowest level in four weeks, the new figures released Thursday by the Labor Department are nearly four times higher than a year ago before the coronavirus struck. Employers continue to cut jobs as rising coronavirus infections keep many people at home while state and local governments re-impose restrictions.

Jobless claims were running around 225,000 a week before the pandemic struck with force in March, causing weekly jobless claims to surge to a high of 6.9 million in late March as efforts to contain the virus sent the economy into a deep recession.

The government said that the total number of people receiving traditional unemployment benefits fell by 103,000, to 5.2 million, for the week ending Dec. 19 compared to the previous week.

In Indiana, 12,732 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended Dec. 26, up from an adjusted number of 12,234 the previous week. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week.

A total of 73,156 people were receiving traditional unemployment benefits in Indiana as of Dec. 19, the Labor Department said. That was down from 73,506 the previous week.

Continuing claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program that provides benefits to self-employed and gig workers, dropped by 811,465 nationally, to 8.5 million, in the week ended Dec. 12.

Indiana reported 11,050 new applicants for the PUA program in the week ended Dec. 26 after reporting 14,275 new claims the previous week. The state reported 341,542 people were receiving continued PUA aid as of Dec. 12, down from 541,812 the prior week.

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