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As holidays approach, new unemployment claims rise again

The increase comes as more people plan to tighten their holiday spending.

New jobless claims across America are once again on the rise.

Another 742,000 workers filed initial claims for unemployment last week, an increase of 31,000 from the previous week. That’s the first increase since early October, and it eats back into several straight weeks of declines.

It’s the fifth straight week the national number has hovered between 700,000 and 800,000, a sign employment figures may have stagnated as we approach the holidays.

Florida saw one of the biggest week-to-week drops in the nation, reporting only 21,538 new unemployment claims for the week, a drop of more than 9,800 from last week. That figure is by a good margin the lowest since March, and lower than many weeks of the Great Recession, although it remains three to five times higher than the weeks leading up to the pandemic.

Related: Kriseman, south Florida mayors urge DeSantis to stop pandemic spread

In Florida, $18.6 billion has been paid to more than 2.15 million claimants, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The latest figures come a day after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported new numbers on employment and earnings at the county level for many of the largest counties in America.

From June 2019 to June 2020, the number of employed workers in Hillsborough County dropped 4.6 percent, to 633,900. In Pinellas County, the number dropped 5.7 percent, to 414,700. In Pasco County, it dropped 2.5 percent, to 113,200. All three counties had job losses below the national rate.

In all three counties, however, the average wage for those still working rose by between 5.6 and 6.4 percent from 2019 to 2020. Those raises also did not meet the national average wage increase of 8.6 percent.

Income and employment insecurity brought on by the pandemic is already having an impact on Americans’ spending plans for the holiday season.

According to market research firm JLL, shoppers plan to spend $694 on their holiday purchases this year, down 20.5 percent from last year. More than 74 percent say they plan to shop at a discount store this year. And only 41 percent plan to do any shopping on Black Friday.

Some aspects of unemployment aid approved by Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act this spring are set to expire by the end of the year. According to a new study by the progressive think tank the Century Foundation, unemployment funding for 12 million Americans will run out the day after Christmas.