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The number of applications for unemployment benefits likely edged up last week, another sign that the economic recovery is sputtering, as coronavirus infections hit record levels nationwide.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the government to report that new unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, came in at a seasonally adjusted 800,000 last week. That is up slightly from the 787,000 filed a week earlier.

“That’s nowhere near what we saw in April fortunately. But it’s not a pretty picture,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist for S&P Global Ratings. “We’re stuck at a level that’s four times where it should be.”

Today’s report will likely add to the evidence that the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and fresh business restrictions in some places are weighing on the labor market. Employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, marking the first decline since the pandemic hit the country last spring. Leisure and hospitality workers bore the brunt of the decline, as a nationwide surge in coronavirus infections forced many restaurants and bars to close or scale back operations. “The people who had gotten hurt the most are still getting hurt the most,” Ms. Bovino said.

The recovery in the number of available jobs posted online reversed course toward the end of December, according to job-search site Indeed’s measure of job-posting trends.