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Weekly jobless claims rise by more than 1 million for 17th straight week

The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week as the country continues to grapple with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Initial weekly jobless claims came in at 1.3 million for the week ending July 11, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected 1.25 million. 

It was also the 17th straight week in which initial claims totaled at least 1 million. Continuing claims — which refer to those receiving benefits for at least two straight weeks — totaled 17.33 million for the week of July 4, the department said in Thursday’s report.

“There are clear signs that the longer-term damage is beginning to mount, with permanent layoffs beginning to climb, and the flow of workers from employment to unemployment still elevated,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. “Moreover, absent a vaccine, the need for ongoing physical distancing will prevent a full recovery.”

These staggering unemployment numbers come as the U.S. struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak, particularly in states like Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Nearly 3.5 million cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. 

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott joined a growing number of governors requiring that people wear masks in public. Florida is facing an ICU bed shortage and Arizona has set a record for hospital beds in use. California recently reversed some of its reopening measures amid another spike in Covid cases.

Initial claims filed in Texas and Florida last week totaled more than 100,000 in each state, the Labor Department said. In California, more than 200,000 workers filed for benefits, by far the most out of any state. Over 30,000 workers in Arizona also filed initial claims. 

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