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Volunteers distribute meals at a food bank in Pennsylvania last month. (Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

More than 1.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week — a figure that includes first-time filings for regular state unemployment and another program for non-traditional workers.

Why it matters: It’s another surge in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits, an additional sign the labor market is facing more strain as the coronavirus continues to ravage the country.

How it breaks down:

  • There were over 1.15 million new applications for the regular state unemployment, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. It’s the first time this figure has spiked over 1 million since July.
  • There were more than 284,000 applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program created in March that allows typically ineligible workers to receive unemployment benefits (think gig workers or the self-employed).

Separately, continued claims — or how many Americans continue to collect unemployment after initially applying — rose to 5.8 million, an increase of nearly 500,000 from the prior week.

  • A similar gauge for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program fell by more than 940,000 in the week ending Dec. 26 — likely a result of people exhausting their benefits before the new relief bill was signed into law.
  • Continued claims in this program total more than 7.4 million, a figure economists warn may be overstated.

The bottom line: The rising jobless claims are way off the worst weekly levels seen at the onset of the coronavirus. But last week’s new filings are still nearly twice as bad as the highest level from before the pandemic.

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.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. State of play: New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead.
  2. Politics: Biden set to immediately ramp up federal pandemic response with 10 executive actions — Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. World: Biden will order U.S. to rejoin World Health OrganizationBiden to bring U.S. into global COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine access.
  4. Vaccine: Amazon offers to help Biden administration with COVID vaccine efforts.
49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

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