Aug 20, 2020 - Economy

Unemployment claims tick higher

A man tapes signs to his car before participating in a caravan rally down the Las Vegas Strip in support of extending the $600 unemployment benefit, August 6, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Photo: Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images

New applications for unemployment bumped higher last week, after jobless claims filings steadily dropped in recent weeks, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Economists are hesitant to draw too many conclusions about the broader economy from this week's higher filings alone, but they're watching for worsening effects on the labor market as Congress' stimulus negotiations stall.

  • Unemployment applications still remain higher than any point in U.S. history before the pandemic.

By the numbers: Regular state unemployment applications totaled 891,510, roughly 53,000 more filings than the prior week.

  • Add in the 542,000 additional applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which offers benefits to gig workers and the self-employed, and the number of total new applications rises to 1.4 million.
  • Worth noting: Accounting for seasonal factors — which can distort the data during an unprecedented period of unemployment filings — regular state unemployment applications totaled 1.1 million.

What to watch: Over 28 million people were collecting some form of unemployment as of August 1, when the $600-a-week enhanced unemployment benefit expired.

  • Congress hasn't made progress on legislation that would provide an additional financial cushion for those relying on unemployment benefits.
  • President Trump signed an executive memo allowing states to tap disaster relief funds to provide an extra $300 in unemployment benefits, but so far only a few states signaled they will move forward to distribute those payments. Even then, it could take several weeks for their residents to receive the extra funds.

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