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.

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