By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The Labor Department on Thursday said another 709,000 workers lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week.

The weekly tally has declined sharply since March and April. Still, the number of new layoffs has stagnated at levels not seen before the pandemic, indicating a grueling recovery for the U.S. labor market.

Thursday’s figure is the lowest level since March, when the pandemic first hit the U.S. economy. At one point 6.9 million Americans filed jobless claims in a single week.

The latest economic snapshot comes, however, as new virus cases and hospitalizations rise at alarming rates across the country and new lockdown measures may go into effect.

Earlier this week, promising vaccine news from Pfizer and BioNtech offered a glimmer of hope to a pandemic-battered economy and sent financial markets soaring.

The DOL data on Thursday, however, shows a labor market still entrenched in economic pain.

For the week ending Oct. 24, the Labor Department said the number of people still claiming unemployment benefits through all programs topped 21 million. For the comparable week in 2019, that figure was less than 1.5 million.

States that saw the largest increases in initial unemployment claims for the week ending Oct. 31 were Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. States that saw the largest decreases for that same time period were Massachusetts, Georgia and New York.

The federal unemployment rate in October was 6.9%, still nearly double what it was in February before the pandemic hit.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.