Impending changes to benefits and Christmas holiday may have affected application levels

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits is projected to have edged higher during a holiday week when it was uncertain whether benefit payments would rise and pandemic-specific programs would be extended.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected initial jobless claims to regular state programs, a proxy for layoffs, to increase modestly to 828,000 during the week ended Dec. 26. The Labor Department will publish the latest data at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday.
Early last week, Congress passed a $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill that will add a $300-a-week supplement for those receiving unemployment benefits and extend two pandemic-specific programs used by about 14 million people. But then President Trump said he was displeased with the bill, casting doubt on whether he would sign it into law. He ultimately did sign the measure on Sunday.
The level of claims has held above 800,000 in recent weeks, their highest level since the early fall and almost four times their pre-pandemic average. Still, they remain well below their peak of nearly seven million in late March, when a majority of states first issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The higher payments promised in the bill could have motivated some Americans to seek benefits last week, while the lack of clarity about whether the bill would become law may have persuaded other would-be applicants to wait. Unemployed workers arent required to file the week they are laid off, and not all applications are approved.