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Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Initial unemployment insurance filings fell below 800,000 for the first time since March last week, but the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits remained at nearly 30 million, data from the Department of Labor shows.

What's happening: While fewer people are filing initial jobless claims, there remains a staggering number of unemployment insurance recipients and the data are growing increasingly unreliable.

  • Multiple states' data shows the number of people receiving benefits to be significantly different than federal government figures, with the discrepancy totaling millions.

The big picture: The U.S. unemployment system's infrastructure looks to be crumbling beneath the weight of the continued inflow of jobless claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: California announced it will halt all unemployment claim filings for the next two weeks while it attempts to clear a backlog of cases that have not been processed, following a report that found its unemployment benefits system will need a complete overhaul.

  • The system has amassed a trove of unprocessed claims that has reached nearly 600,000 and is growing by 10,000 a day.
  • Authorities say it will take several more months to be cleared.

One level deeper: California's announcement is especially important given that it is not only the largest state in the U.S., but also has contributed substantially to the flow of unemployment claims in recent weeks.

  • Traditional continued unemployment claims fell by 256,000 and claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program dropped by 592,000 for the week ended Sept. 5.
  • California's numbers have been significantly outside the norms for other states and its own previous reports in recent weeks.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

Study: 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since May

People wait in line at a food distribution site in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Nearly 8 million Americans have slid into poverty since May, according to a Columbia University study reported by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The researchers found that the monthly poverty rate for September was higher than rates during April or May, and it also topped pre-crisis levels, "[d]ue to the expiration of the CARES Act’s stimulus checks and $600 per week supplement to unemployment benefits."

Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About half of Americans are worried that trick-or-treating will spread coronavirus in their communities, according to this week's installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This may seem like more evidence that the pandemic is curbing our nation's cherished pastimes. But a closer look reveals something more nuanced about Americans' increased acceptance for risk around activities in which they want to participate.