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

Another 2.1 million people filed for unemployment last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Even as states reopen their economies, the number of newly filed unemployment applications remains historically high as the pandemic slams the labor market.

The big picture: The number of weekly jobless claims during the coronavirus crisis peaked at 6.9 million in late March. While the pace of newly filed applications has slowed, they are still higher than at any point in modern history before the pandemic hit.

  • The headline figure released by the Labor Department doesn't include those who last week filed for "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance," which extends unemployment benefits to the self-employed and gig workers under the federal stimulus bill.
  • 38 states reported 1.2 million Americans applied for that program last week. Other states still aren't reporting how many people are applying for this program to the Department of Labor.

By the numbers: The total number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits — after initially applying — fell by 3.9 million to 21 million. That's still more than three times higher than the prior record set back in 2009.

  • This figure reports with a two-week lag.

Between the lines: Businesses have reported trouble getting laid off or furloughed workers to come back.

  • In a Federal Reserve survey of businesses around the country released Wednesday, "workers' health concerns, limited access to child care, and generous unemployment insurance benefits" were among the reasons businesses said workers weren't returning.
  • The CARES Act grants an additional $600 in benefits per week to jobless Americans, on top of the amount usually paid out weekly.
  • Those benefits end in July — and there's debate among economists and policymakers about whether that additional payout of benefits should be extended.

What's next: The government's May jobs report will be released next week, and economists expect the unemployment rate to be north of 20%.

Go deeper: The economy's honeymoon phase of its coronavirus recovery

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 Sep 25, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

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

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will move forward with its own review of coronavirus vaccines even if the Food and Drug Administration approves one or more for distribution and public use.

Why it matters: The motion could sow further public doubt that the federal government could release a vaccine based on political motives rather than safety and efficacy.

Sep 4, 2020 - Health

"Mask up": Governors urge caution ahead of Labor Day weekend

Beach-goers in San Clemente, California on Sept. 2 ahead of Labor Day weekend. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Democratic and Republican governors on Friday urged residents to adhere to basic coronavirus mitigation strategies, like washing hands and wearing a mask, during the Labor Day weekend.

Why it matters: 18 states saw rising coronavirus caseloads over the last week, including seven where daily infections were up by more than 50%, per a weekly Axios tracker.