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1.3M workers file for unemployment as COVID-19 spikes and businesses close again

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits continues to dwindle yet remains remarkably high as recently reopened businesses shut their doors amid spikes of the coronavirus.

1.3 million workers filed first time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That latest round of applications means roughly 50 million Americans have made initial jobless benefits claims in just 16 weeks.

Initial jobless claims are the nation’s most reliable gauge of layoffs and there has been progress. About 1.43 million sought such aid the previous week, and the latest number marks the 14th week in a row that initial claims have declined.

But it’s also the 16th week in a row that first time applications for unemployment insurance hovered above 1 million.

The continuing high number of jobless claims punctures the positive news last week that the U.S. economy added a record 4.8 million jobs in June as states allowed more businesses to reopen after they closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus and a growing number of Americans returned to work. The jobless rate fell to 11.1% from 13.3% in May, the Labor Department said.

The economy has still suffered a net loss of 14.7 million jobs during the downturn sparked by the pandemic, and the data for the most recent monthly jobs report was collected in mid-June before the spike in virus cases that is occurring in dozens of states.

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