Jul 9, 2020 - Economy

1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Employment and Training Administration via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Another 1.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Why it matters: The number of new unemployment applications has fallen steadily since peaking in March, but the number is still historically higher than before the pandemic hit. Economists are watching the weekly gauge for any sign that spiking unemployment may come alongside the sharp uptick in coronavirus cases around the country.

  • Texas, which is among the states seeing a surge in cases, reported over 20,000 new unemployment filings in the week ending July 4.
  • But Florida, which is similarly facing a rise, saw 17,000 fewer new jobless claims compared to the prior week. (Its labor department has seen complaints of delays for jobless people applying and receiving benefits.)

By the numbers: An additional 1 million people applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides unemployment benefits to the self-employed or gig workers.

  • The number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits — after initially applying — ticked down slightly to 18.1 million from 18.7 million the prior week. Consistent drops in this figure are an indication that Americans are falling off the rolls of unemployment and possibly returning back to work.
  • Separately, another 14.4 million are still claiming benefits under the PUA program — roughly 1.5 million more than the prior week.

For context: The record number of new unemployment filings before the pandemic was set in 1982, when 695,000 people filed for unemployment.

  • Combining new applications for regular unemployment and PUA, the number of new claims last week is more than triple this prior record.

What to watch: The week ending July 25 is the last that people are eligible to receive the more generous unemployment benefits — an additional $600 per week — authorized under the federal stimulus bill.

  • It’s unclear whether Congress will extend those benefits, which would leave tens of millions of jobless Americans with less of a cushion.
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