New claims for unemployment insurance remained elevated last week amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the government reported Thursday.

More than 743,000 workers filed new claims for state benefits last week, before adjusting for seasonal factors, an increase of 18,000 from the week before. With seasonal swings factored in, the latest figure was 742,000, virtually unchanged from the previous week, the Labor Department said.

Claims had drifted lower in recent weeks but remain far above the levels reached in previous recessions. What’s more, the coronavirus resurgence in much of the country in recent weeks has caused new restrictions on business activity, leading to more job cuts.


“The economy has made significant progress in healing from the Covid shock, but there is still more work to be done, and layoffs are persisting,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America.

New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program aimed at self-employed workers and independent contractors, totaled 320,000.

News that competing vaccines from two companies had shown strong evidence of efficacy against the virus has led the stock market higher and fueled hopes that the virus could be brought under control next year. That would clear the way for renewed growth, many experts say.


“We’re potentially entering a period of softness, but the medium term is more promising,” Ms. Meyer said.

On Monday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. called on the two parties to “come together” and enact a stimulus package along the lines of a $3 trillion proposal passed by the Democratic-controlled House.

For all the body blows of the last year, consumer demand remains relatively healthy, according to Ms. Meyer. “We are still seeing incredible strength in housing, and auto sales remain strong,” she said. “Consumers are still spending on bigger-ticket items.”