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Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The number of newly filed jobless claims has steadily dropped since peaking in March, but the pandemic is still forcing more than a million workers to the ranks of unemployment each week — over twice the all-time record seen before the coronavirus hit.

By the numbers:

  • Continued claims, the number of Americans who remain on unemployment after initially applying, ticked down to 19.5 million. Consistent drops in this figure are a sign that a wave of workers are falling off the ranks of unemployment and possibly returning to work, but the number hasn't budged significantly in recent weeks.
  • Another 728,000 workers filed for unemployment under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which allows self-employed workers to receive unemployment benefits.
  • More than 11 million people continue to receive benefits under this program after initially applying — 1.7 million more than the Department of Labor reported last week.

What they're saying: "The stickiness that we see in claims is a reason to be concerned," Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America, told Bloomberg.

  • Even as states reopen economies, "there’s still some firing going on."
  • The weekly jobless claims report is the most timely snapshot of the labor market, but it only reflects how many people are losing work. It doesn't show whether (or how many people) are being hired.

What to watch: Economists worry the bit of healing we’ve seen in the job market is cooling — and could backslide further if businesses close where coronavirus cases are spiking.

Go deeper

GOP Sen. Mike Lee tests positive for coronavirus

Josh Hawley, Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham on Sept. 10. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to self-quarantine for ten days after he tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, he announced Friday.

Why it matters: Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was at the White House last Saturday to watch President Trump introduce federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. He also met with Barrett at the Capitol on Sept. 29.

Updated Jan 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy — Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Oct 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

Airlines push for testing before takeoff to rekindle confidence in travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Global airlines are pushing for widespread coronavirus testing as an alternative to quarantine measures and other travel restrictions that have dampened passenger demand and decimated the industry.

Why it matters: Airline officials have pegged the industry's recovery to the discovery of a coronavirus vaccine, but it could be mid-2021 before one is widely available.