• MLWA 7

More than 1 Million seek unemployment in the US due to rising COVID cases

- Washington District of Columbia, USA

More than a million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating that companies are cutting more jobs as the resurgent coronavirus scythes through the Sunbelt and some of the nation’s most populous states.

Layoffs in Florida, Georgia and California rose by tens of thousands, the Labor Department said Thursday in its weekly report. The number of laid-off workers seeking assistance remained stuck at 1.3 million — a stunning number that, while lower than the previous week, illustrated the devastation wrought by widespread shutdowns. It was the 17th consecutive week that jobless claims surpassed 1 million.

Infections are rising in 40 states, and 22 states have either paused or reversed efforts to reopen their economies, according to Bank of America. The rising number of virus cases threatens to push what appeared to be a recovering nation into critical condition.

Applications for aid paralleled rising infections geographically. Claims in Florida doubled to 129,000, and in Georgia they rose nearly one-third to 136,000, according to the Labor Department report. In California, they increased 23,000 to nearly 288,000. Applications also went up in Arizona and South Carolina.

“Conditions in the labor market remain weak, and the risk of mounting permanent job losses is high, especially if activity continues to be disrupted by repeated virus-related shutdowns,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

The number of people seeking jobless aid shrank in New Jersey and New York and in another hot spot, Texas, a state that has been hammered by job cuts this year in the energy sector.

There was a surprisingly strong report Thursday from the Census Bureau on retail sales, though there is trouble below the surface there as well.

While sales climbed 7.5% in June, private credit card data shows that those gains stalled toward the end of the month as new clusters of infections emerged.

“While today’s report gives the illusion of a fearless consumer spending lavishly, the reality is more sobering: Consumers are increasingly fearful amid new spikes in COVID-19 cases and a looming fiscal cliff,” said Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

The country has entered a phase in which businesses and consumers alike are adjusting to the perpetual risk of viral outbreaks. Retailers are already relying on skeleton crews.