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Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits continues to fall, but data from the Labor Department showed more than 1 million people filed for first-time jobless benefits for the 33rd week in a row.

By the numbers: More than 738,000 people applied for first-time traditional unemployment benefits last week, and nearly 363,000 applied for benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Why it matters: The rate of unemployment filings has been remarkably high for a remarkable amount of time.

Between the lines: The number of people receiving benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for the long-term unemployed has risen by 14,348% since it started in April, while the PUA program is up 6,741% during that time.

  • "The small increase in PEUC relative to the decline in continuing claims for regular state UI is due in part to workers running into administrative glitches getting on to PEUC," Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor and current director of policy at left-leaning think tank EPI, said on Twitter.

What's next: Shierholz also points out that unemployment benefits are starting to run out for more people and will expire for all of the nearly 14 million Americans on pandemic programs at the end of the year.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Economic growth is slowly returning

Data: New York Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Fed's index of real-time data indicators shows the reversal of the economy's progress in late December and early January, but it moved upwards again last week.

Driving the news: Central bankers said the index's rise for the week of Jan. 9 was due to increases in tax withholding, fuel sales and rail traffic, which countered disappointing numbers for initial unemployment insurance claims and a decrease in electricity output.

The limits of "Buy American"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden and Donald Trump agree on at least one thing: Buy American. The slogan was a centerpiece of Biden's recent address to Congress, backed up with one of his first executive orders.

Why it matters: Federal law has placed a heavy thumb on the scales when it comes to hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. government spending. But it's far from clear that it will have its desired effect.

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.