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Initial Jobless Claims Total 198K Continuing Claims hit New Pandemic Low

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week amid an increase in new COVID-19 cases. According to Labor Department, data applications for initial jobless Claims for the week ending Dec. 25 totaled 198,000, down from a revised 206,000 the prior week. Analysts surveyed were expecting 208,000 total.

Continuing Claims, which track the total number of unemployed workers collecting benefits, fell to 1.716 million, a decline from the prior week. There were about 11.03 million job openings in October, up from 10.6 million in September. There were about 7.4 million unemployed workers that month meaning there are nearly 4 million more available jobs than there are workers.

Despite the downward trend in initial Claims, the total of those receiving benefits under all programs rose by nearly 40,000 to 2.18 million, according to data through Dec. 11. Some of the declines in Claims have come from the ending of benefits through programs created during the pandemic that provided enhanced and extended payments. The total getting benefits is a far cry from where it was a year ago when 20.5 million were on the various programs.

The jobs market also has seen a record pace of people quitting their jobs, many for better opportunities elsewhere as average hourly earnings climb in an inflationary environment the U.S. has not seen in decades. The Fed has responded to inflation by speeding up the pace at which it is reducing its monthly bond purchases. That program is expected to be completed in a few months, and markets expect the central bank to start raising interest rates in March 2022.

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