Unemployment claims fell to 712,000 over the Thanksgiving week, according to statistics released Thursday by the Department of Labor, bringing the total number of jobless claims since the pandemic began to 69.6 million, or roughly 43 percent of the workforce.
While the number declined from 787,000 the previous week, weekly unemployment claims are still higher than the average 225,000 claims before mass business closures in March caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Thanksgiving seasonals likely explain the drop,″ Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told the Associated Press. “Expect a rebound next week.”
Employers have recovered 12.1 million of the 22 million jobs originally lost in March and April at the start of the pandemic.
The Labor Department is scheduled to release its November jobs report on Friday. Economists interviewed by the Wall Street Journal expect employers to have added 440,000 jobs over the past month, less than the 638,000 added in October.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant emergency authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine later this month. Distribution of this and other vaccines is expected to ease some pressure on the economy.
The Federal Reserve also indicated on Wednesday that an economic recovery grew at a “modest or moderate” pace.
“Sometime in the middle of next year it really does look like that may be the light at the end of the tunnel—we all hope so—and that the economy could be very healthy,” Fed chairman Jerome Powell said at a Wednesday congressional hearing. “The problem is people who lose their homes now, or businesses that go out of business. These are sometimes small businesses that have generations of human capital built up in their activities, and once they’re gone they can’t just be recreated.”