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U.S. jobless claims rise for 2nd consecutive week amid resurgence in COVID-19 cases

The number of initial jobless claims in the United States rose to 1.43 million last week amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, following an increase in previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

In the week ending July 25, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased by 12,000 from a revised 1,422,000 in the prior week, the department said.

Initial jobless claims have exceeded 1 million for 19 consecutive weeks, about six times the pre-outbreak average. The claims peaked at a record 6.87 million in the week ending March 28 amid COVID-19 shutdowns, and the figures have declined for 15 weeks consecutively, before the trend was reversed in the week ending July 18.

With the latest numbers, a staggering 54.1 million initial jobless claims have been filed over the past 19 weeks, indicating the mounting economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with China Central Television (CCTV), Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, pointed out that the impact of the epidemic on the labor market is exacerbating inequality in the U.S. society.

“The gap of income and wealth has increased dramatically in the epidemic because people who can work online – and that’s mainly skilled workers, people in the finance industry, professionals like myself in higher education and so forth – have been able to continue with economic activities rather normally, one could say, even during this period,” said Sachs.

“But people on the front lines who work in shops or in restaurants, frontline workers in public transport and so forth have had a terrible time. They’ve become much more vulnerable to the infections, which is tragic, but also have lost jobs in the United States by around 18 million jobs in the service economy, by and large. And so there’s a huge inequality that has increased,” he added.

The epidemic is also worsening racial inequality in the United States, because some jobs of ethnic minorities carry a higher risk of infection. Survey showed that 43 percent of African Americans and Latino Americans in the U.S. work in service or production which basically cannot be done remotely – compared with just a quarter of white workers who hold such jobs.

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