Stubbornly high unemployment paints grim picture

Fresh signs that the U.S. economic recovery is in the midst of a pause.

New filings for unemployment benefits remain extremely high - coming in at 787,000 for the week that included the New Year's holiday, according to numbers released Thursday by the Labor Department.

Though that number unexpectedly dropped from the week before, it still coincides with a labor market that appears to be stalling as states revive efforts to slow a health crisis that is once again raging.

Private companies shed jobs for the first time in eight months during the month of December, according to a report earlier this week by payroll processor ADP.

And experts expect applications for jobless assistance to go back up after Congress went-down-to-the-wire in late December and finally approved an extension of extra jobless benefits of $300. It also extended extra help to those who don't normally qualify for traditional state unemployment benefits.

All-in-all, some 19.2 million Americans received some type of jobless assistance heading into the Christmas holiday.

Focus now turns to the crucial monthly jobs report due out Friday. Economists predict December numbers will show the smallest job growth since the spring... and likely add fuel to talk of more stimulus under the incoming Biden administration, backed by a Democratic-led House and Senate.