Another 1.3 million people filed for unemployment for the first time last week, a slight decrease from the week before, as novel coronavirus cases and closures surged around the country, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
The numbers of new unemployment filings have remained above a million each week since the pandemic began in mid-March. That number has averaged about 1.4 million the past four weeks.
In addition, states reported that another 1 million claims were made under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which grants jobless benefits for gig workers, self-employed workers and contractors, the agency reported.
When combined, the two numbers for initial unemployment claims have ticked up the past three weeks, from 2.24 million in mid-June to 2.44 million last week.
The numbers for the first few days of July come as rising cases of coronavirus infections have hit states and counties nationwide, touching off a new round of closures and restrictions and sending some workers back to the unemployment insurance queue for the second time in just a few short months.
“The bad news is that initial claims are still historically very high and they suggest that damage is continuing to accumulate in the economy,” Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork, said in an interview.
The unemployment rate, which is tabulated separately from the weekly jobless claims, has trended downward the past two months, to 11.1 percent last month, as many laid-off or furloughed workers in industries such as food service and retail were called back to work. Yet a rising number of workers have reported permanent layoffs.
And the jobless statistics don’t capture the damage from the new round of cases yet.
“All these factors look more like an economy that is riding into a recession than out of one,” Ozimek said. “At this stage in the game, when we’re this far from initial shock, it becomes less likely that new layoffs are the types of jobs that snap back.”
The numbers of people continuously receiving benefits at the end of June has also trended gradually downward. The last week of June saw 18.1 million people on unemployment insurance, down from 19.3 million people the week before that, as rehirings have slightly outpaced new layoffs week by week.
But as hopes fade for a quick rebound from the pandemic — the United States reported more than 60,000 new cases Wednesday, a new high — signs of longer-term economic damage are emerging.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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