Dec 31, 2020 - Economy

19.5 million Americans remain on unemployment at end of 2020

Food lines

Food distribution event on Dec. 12 in Orlando. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

787,000 Americans filed for initial jobless claims last week, a decline of 19,000 from the previous week and 41,000 fewer unemployment claims than economists had projected, according to Labor Department data.

Why it matters: It's the lowest weekly figure this month, but the overall level of economic pain experienced across the U.S. during the holiday season remains astonishingly high. Over 19.5 million Americans are claiming benefits across all unemployment programs to close out the year.

Flashback: Approximately 220,000 people filed for initial jobless claims at this time last year.

Driving the news: President Trump signed the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress. Despite his decision to delay signing the bill over last-minute objections, the Labor Department said this week that it does not expect people claiming certain federal unemployment benefits to experience a lapse in payments.

  • President Trump and Democrats in Congress have pushed the Senate to approve a standalone bill that would boost stimulus checks in the package from $600 to $2,000 per person.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Wednesday that he does not see a "realistic path to quickly pass" the House-approved measure, saying on the Senate floor: "The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats' rich friends that don't need the help."
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