Another 787,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, down 19,000 from the week before and the lowest rate since November.

The figure represented the second consecutive drop in the number of initial jobless claims, but the rate remains historically elevated and some economists warned that the true number of Americans put out of work last week could be higher, as the Christmas holiday may have led some to wait to apply for benefits.

Claims numbers also dipped in the week of the Thanksgiving holiday only to rise the week after. The number of initial claims last week was expected to rise to 833,000.

On top of the new claimants, 5.2m Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, down from 5.3m the week before.

Economists fear that an expected surge in Covid-19 cases following Christmas celebrations could prompt further business closures and push more Americans out of work.

A $900n relief package signed by President Donald Trump at the weekend extended jobless benefits and provided funds for businesses and efforts to tackle the pandemic, which will boost the job market but take time to feed through to the economy.

Thursday’s report covered the week ending on December 26.

Column chart of Initial claims, millions showing Jobless claims were below 800,000 last week for first time in a month



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