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Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

A staggering number of Americans continue to fall into a troubling labor market category: out of work for so long that regular unemployment programs have expired. And, that number is rising.

What it means: People are falling off the state unemployment rolls and likely getting work. But that’s being offset by people who are falling off because they are simply no longer eligible to collect state unemployment.

  • They’re transitioning to the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides 13 extra weeks of support.

What they’re saying: “The decline in continuing claims exaggerates the improvement in total employment," Conrad DeQuadros, an economist at Brean Economics, wrote in a note.

By the numbers: Roughly 160,000 more people moved onto PEUC in the week ending Oct. 24, bringing the total number of claimants to 4.1 million, according to the Department of Labor.

  • PEUC expires on Dec. 26, which will rip financial support out from right underneath millions of people (unless it’s extended by Congress, which appears unlikely).
  • The same is true for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for gig and freelance workers, where 9.4 million people are said to be collecting benefits.

What to watch: Over half a million people are tapping Extended Benefits, an option for eligible unemployed workers in most states that have exhausted regular state and PEUC benefits — 21,000 fewer people than last week.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 8, 2021 - Economy & Business

U.S. sheds 140,000 jobs in December, halting labor market recovery

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy shed 140,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate held at 6.7%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The job market recovery that had been underway for the past seven months ended last month, buckling from the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

1 hour ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.