US unemployment claims boost goods imports while consumer demand boosts

Workers continued to apply for unemployment assistance at an elevated level in late 2020 and holiday-season demand for imported consumer products pushed the trade deficit to a record in November, a sign of uneven economic recovery.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployed benefits from regular state programs, a proxy for layoffs, fell from 3,000 to 787,000 at the end of the week. The prior week’s figure was revised to 3,000. Unemployment claims through the fall and in winter are nearly four times higher than the pre-epidemic average.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday that the foreign-trade gap for goods in November was at its highest recorded since 1992. The overall deficit for goods and services was adjusted to 8%, the highest level since October, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. The data shows that consumers’ demand for imports is global demand for US exports.

Job losses in the past year have been particularly severe among low-income restaurant, hotel, and mall-retail workers. Meanwhile, workers in other areas were more likely to relocate to work from home and maintain income to help reduce demand for food, while spending less on eating out, traveling and other services.

Consumer goods imports reached record highs in November, due to shipments of merchandise, equipment, jewelry and toys.


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