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The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits was 2.1 million last week, the lowest number since the coronavirus crisis began, but still three times higher than the peak during the global financial crisis.

Yes, but: The number of continuing jobless claims fell by 3.86 million on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week of May 9–May 16, suggesting many Americans are going back to work.

What they're saying: "The jobless claims 'curves' are bending," Ellis Phifer, managing director of fixed income research at Raymond James, says in a note to clients. "I’d say that’s pretty encouraging."

But, but, but: "To get a more complete picture, we need to take into account the number of people claiming benefits under the CARES Act," Phifer notes.

  • In 33 states, 7.8 million people are receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and about 222,000 have claims for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in 22 states.

What it means: Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, notes that 19.1 million workers were on continued claims as of May 16, and 4.1 million more have filed initial state unemployment claims since then.

  • Add those to the PUA numbers for initial and continued claims and it equals a total of "34.2 million workers who are either on unemployment benefits, or have applied very recently and are waiting to get approved," she says on Twitter.

Go deeper

U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. added 1.4 million jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell to 8.4% from 10.2% in July, the government announced on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market is rebounding, but the pace of hiring has dropped off from the fury of job gains seen earlier this summer. The slowdown could be a sign of what's to come: a long, sluggish job market recovery.

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).