The number of Americans who applied for jobless benefits last week fell less than expected as the pace of the labor market’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continues to slow.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims filed through state programs slid to 840,000 in the week ended Oct. 3 from a revised 849,000 in the prior week. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast new claims to fall to 820,000.

New applications for unemployment benefits have gradually receded from a pandemic peak of 6.9 million in late March but the weekly total has fallen by less than 100,000 in the past month.

Filings have hovered between 800,000 and 900,000 for six consecutive weeks — still far above the Great Recession’s weekly peak of 665,000.

“Let’s hope we soon break below the 800k mark in initial claims soon because hanging around the 800k+ level is still not a good place to be, especially going into the winter,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said in a client note.

Continued claims, which count people who have filed for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, fell to about 10.9 million in the week ending Sept. 26, continuing their steady decline as more unemployed workers likely exhausted the 26 weeks of benefits that states generally provide.

The insured unemployment rate, a basic measure of the workforce compared with those collecting benefits, also slid to from 8.2% to 7.5%, its lowest since March 28.

“The decline in continuing claims is welcome, but initial claims offer a better read on the real-time state of the labor market, and the downward trend has stalled, more or less,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

As the New York Post reports, “Experts fear the labor market’s recovery from the spring’s massive coronavirus-fueled job losses will falter if the government doesn’t provide another round of aid to the ailing economy. But President Trump pulled the plug on broad stimulus negotiations with Congress this week, raising further questions about when more help will arrive.”

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