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US layoffs remain elevated as 884,000 seek jobless aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, file photo help wanted signs for servers and cooks at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa are displayed along route 40 at the entrance to the resort in Farmington, Pa. U.S. employers advertised more jobs but hired fewer workers in July, sending mixed signals about a job market in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Labor Department said Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, that the number of U.S. job postings on the last day of July rose to 6.6 million from 6 million at the end of June. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 884,000, a sign that layoffs are stuck at a historically high level six months after the viral pandemic flattened the economy.

The latest figure released by the Labor Department Thursday still far exceeds the number who sought benefits in any week on record before this year.

The job market is improving fitfully as portions of the economy have reopened and companies are recalling some workers they had temporarily laid off. Employers have so far added back about half the record 22 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic.

But hiring has slowed since June, and a rising number of laid-off workers say they regard their job loss as permanent. The recovery of those jobs will likely take longer to achieve. Jobless people typically find it harder to find work at a new company or in a new industry than to return to a previous employer.

The government also said Thursday that 13.4 million people are continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 13.3 million the previous week. The increase suggests that hiring isn’t occurring quickly enough to offset still-widespread layoffs.

Hiring will likely remain restrained as long as Americans are unable or reluctant to resume their normal habits of shopping, traveling, dining out and engaging in other commerce. The rate of reported infections has dropped over the past several weeks but remains well above where it was during the spring. Most analysts say the economy won’t likely be able to sustain a recovery until a vaccine is widely available.

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