Weekly jobless claims fall for second straight week

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week but remain elevated more than nine months into the health and economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that another 787,000 Americans filed initial claims for jobless benefits during the Christmas week, that's fewer than the 833,000 that economists polls by Reuters were expecting.

And marks the second straight week that applications dropped.

While jobless claims have fallen from a record of over 6.8 million in March, they have held persistently above their 665,000 peak hit during the Great Recession, signaling the persistent pain inflicted by the pandemic on the job market.

The latest report's end date - December 26th --was when as many as 14 million people in the U.S. were set to lose jobless benefits provided by a $3 trillion pandemic relief bill passed in the spring.

That was a cliff that lawmakers had raced to avoid by passing a nearly $900 billion supplemental package in the days before Christmas.

President Donald Trump, however, railed against the deal, demanding higher payments to individuals.

He backed down and signed it into law on Sunday, but only after extensive badgering by lawmakers in his Republican Party.

Last week's data on unemployment claims aligns with other recent weak economic reports, including a decline in consumer confidence to a four-month low in December and drops in both consumer spending and income last month.