During the week of 9 January, the number of first-time claims for unemployment payments surged to 965,000 from 784,000 the week before, the U.S. Labor Department reported. The number was the highest since the week of 22 August.
Analysts had expected 800,000 new claims. The unemployment rate held firm at 6.7 percent.
Workers filing late because of the December holiday season, as well as the new $300 weekly federal employment benefit enacted last month, could have drawn a higher number of applicants, Diane Swonk, Grant Thornton’s chief economist, commented to the Wall Street Journal.
Hiring had been declining for five consecutive months, but it still showed gains before the net loss in January’s first week. In November, job seekers outnumbered available positions by about four million, the Labor Department reported.
Nationally, the leisure and hospitality industries eliminated 498,000 jobs in the week.
Continuing claims added 199,000 in the most recent report, raising the number to 5.27 million, the first jump since late November. 
New restrictions on social movement in several states swelled the ranks of the jobless, with 36 states and the District of Columbia all seeing increases. 
Illinois, with Chicago’s new clamp-down on eateries, fielded 51,280 new claims. California, with a range of dire social restrictions, saw claims rise 13 percent with 20,857 new applications. New York booked 15,559 new filings.
Claims in Florida, which has relatively few mandates on movement, doubled for the week to 50,747. Texas, which also has lax restrictions, noted 14,282 new claims.
Rising unemployment in states with business-friendly policies hints that the national jobs market may be continuing to weaken.
Also for the week, 284,000 new claims for the federal program paying benefits to out-of-work freelancers were filed. Before the current economic crisis, weekly claims averaged about 200,000.
In December, non-farm jobs declined by 140,000, the first slide since April, when the labor market began to recover last spring. 
TREND FORECAST: Much of the world has entered a deep winter downturn. It is important to note that employment dove during the Christmas season, the time of year traditionally when employment rises during the shopping season. 
Things already are worse: the actual number of people without work may be more than double the official 10.7 million, according to calculations by the private, non-profit Economic Policy Institute.
Allowing for the usual undercounting and misclassification, and adding in workers too discouraged to look for jobs, the true figure is about 26.8 million, the Institute contends.
In a 13 January statement, the U.S. Federal Reserve reported that all of its 12 districts are seeing reduced hiring. Thus, companies see a clouded future through the rest of the winter; an uncertain economy over the next several months also may be keeping workers from jumping jobs.
As we had forecast, the winter and early spring months will see a difficult economy until a temporary “Biden bounce” later in the year as vaccines are dispersed, warmer weather allows restaurants to resume outdoor service, and new stimulus spending keeps businesses and consumers afloat longer.

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