A worker uses a chainsaw to cut a Christmas tree at Ted Drewes Christmas Tree Lot in St. Louis, Mo., on November 27. The Labor Department said Thursday close to 900,000 additional U.S. workers have filed new unemployment claims. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits was substantially higher on Thursday than most experts predicted.
The Labor Department said in its weekly report that 853,000 people in the United States filed new claims last week, a dramatic increase of about 140,000 claims over the prior week.
The department said the unemployment rate for last week was 3.9%.
Most analysts had expected somewhere around 730,000 new claims.
Thursday's report showed the most claims for a single week since the middle of September.
The department said the four-week moving average is 776,000 and there were 5.76 million continuing unemployment claims -- an increase of 230,000 -- for the week ending Nov. 28. Continuing claims lag initial claims by a week.
Thursday's report also revised up last week's new claims by 4,000.
The new jobless figures are the first since the department reported last week that the U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs during the month of November, which was about half what analysts expected.
The weekly unemployment assessment came as Congress has made some progress toward a new round of stimulus for businesses and out-of-work Americans, but remains mired in stalemate.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers last week proposed a $908 billion aid package that included about $180 billion in enhanced unemployment payments -- a successor to the $600-per-week supplemental payments that expired in July.
A number of House and Senate lawmakers supported the proposal, but the Trump administration countered on Tuesday with a $916 billion proposal that cut the unemployment aid to $40 billion. Democratic lawmakers called that proposal a non-starter because of the stripping of the jobless aid.
The House passed a $2 trillion stimulus package in May, which the Senate ignored before submitting a slimmed down proposal in October.
Another key issue in negotiations is more direct stimulus for Americans, similar to the $1,200 payments sent through the CARES Act in the spring. House Democrats have called for another $1,200 payment, but Republicans and President Donald Trump have balked at that amount and support a payment about half that amount.