Unemployment claims in the U.S. show little relief from pandemic layoffs.

American employers continue to cut jobs at rates that dwarf the pace of layoffs in past decades, even as the economy crawls forward from the coronavirus-induced recession that began last spring.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 787,000 Americans filed for state unemployment benefits for the first time last week, a decline from the previous week’s total of 827,000. These figures, unadjusted for seasonal variations, are roughly four times the weekly tally of claims from before the pandemic.

But the totals did not reflect a fresh report from California, where officials have halted claims processing for two weeks to clear a backlog and deal with fraud. Instead, the Labor Department used the most recent weekly figure available.

With seasonal adjustments, last week’s national figure was 837,000.

Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program aimed at independent contractors, gig workers and part-time employees, totaled 650,000.

As bad as the numbers look compared with the start of the year, they are much improved from early spring, when fired and furloughed workers sought out benefits by the millions each week. Still, the totals offer little indication of a strengthening labor market.

“It’s unclear how many companies can sustain themselves and retain payrolls that support incomes,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. “A solid rebound in job growth is now looking more muted.”

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