U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Amounted to 860,000 Last Week
This morning, the United States Department of Labor released the latest unemployment insurance filing numbers showing that 860,000 workers applied for new benefits last week. The figure is down from an adjusted 893,000 the week prior and is a fraction of the near-record 6.6 million claims filed at the height of COVID-related shutdowns. It’s also below the 870,000 that economists polled by MarketWatch had anticipated. Nevertheless, it’s still four-times what the average weekly filings were prior to the pandemic. Additionally, continued jobless claims stand at 12.6 million — although that too is down from 13.4 million the week before.
Elsewhere, initial filings for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) amounted to 658,737 for the week. Not only was that down from the 838,916 that filed a week earlier but also marked the first week-to-week decline since early August. In all, when PUA and jobless claims are combined, 1.45 million Americans filed new claims last week compared to 1.73 million two weeks ago.
Perhaps the most interesting figure in the Labor Department’s report is the number of Americans currently filing for benefits across all of the unemployment insurance programs: more than 29.7 million. That’s also up 98,456 from the previous week. Meanwhile, during a comparable week last week, the total number was less than 1.5 million.
Although the numbers are mostly trending in the right direction, recovery continues to be slow and seems to be plateauing at the moment. As PNC Financial Services chief economist Gus Faucher explains, “The labor market continues to heal from the viral recession, but unemployment remains extremely elevated and will remain a problem for at least a couple of years.” He added, “With initial claims at almost four times their pace before the pandemic, layoffs are far higher than normal.”
It should also be noted that, while new unemployment claims are falling, relief has also been reduced. Not only has a second round of direct stimulus checks yet to materialize but the federal program that provided an additional $600 a week to jobless workers expired this summer.
Ultimately, while the dipping week-to-week numbers may be somewhat encouraging, the fact that 29.7 million Americans are still filing for some form of unemployment benefits shows that the economy’s recovery is still a long ways off. Furthermore, with additional relief for small businesses and taxpayers still up in the air on a federal legislative level, the high unemployment could lead to other economic issues in the coming months. As a result, it’s hard to say where we head next as America attempts to navigate a return to normalcy.