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Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Nearly four months after the coronavirus pandemic began to rock the economy, the number of people filing claims for unemployment insurance because of COVID-19-related job losses is increasing.

By the numbers: Applicants for the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program have risen consistently since the week ending April 11 when the government first started reporting claims figures.

  • It is now hovering at around 1 million new claims a week, while the number of continued claims, or people approved for and receiving aid under the program, rose to 14.3 million for the week ending July 4.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation — a separate program that provides additional benefits to individuals who previously collected state or federal unemployment compensation but exhausted those benefits — is rising toward 1 million weekly claims, with new claims touching more than 936,000 for the week ending June 27.

Why it matters: The increases in pandemic-specific unemployment claims started well before the recent surge of coronavirus infections.

  • That suggests the job losses were the result of firms laying off workers because of lost business rather than government-mandated closures or caution due to the virus.
  • That likely means a significant increase in claims is coming as more municipalities lock down to prevent further spread of the virus.

The big picture: A total of 32 million people were receiving unemployment benefits, according to the latest total from the Department of Labor.

  • But those numbers were two weeks behind in counting the number of people approved for traditional unemployment benefits and three weeks delayed for PUA and PUEC recipients.
  • Including traditional and PUA unemployment claims, another 2.4 million people filed first-time jobless claims for the week ending July 11.

Between the lines: Jobless claims are still more than double the worst weeks in U.S. history.

  • The previous record high was 695,000, set in 1982.
  • The U.S. has now seen 17 straight weeks of claims totaling over 1 million.

What's next: "The risk of a surprise drop in employment in July is rising, pointing to a rollercoaster recovery as the labor market starts to turn down again,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao told Yahoo Finance.

Of note: This week's unadjusted claims number shows an increase of almost 109,000 from the prior week, while the seasonally adjusted figure shows unemployment claims down 10,000 from the prior week's level.

  • Seasonal adjustments are typically used to smooth out data, but have caused significant changes in numbers and sometimes even turned employment losses into gains since the waves of mass job losses started in March.

Go deeper

Oct 23, 2020 - Health

Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” NIAID director Anthony Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.

Why it matters: At the beginning of the pandemic, the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, met every day, but in the "last several weeks," members have held virtual meetings once a week, Fauci said, even as the number of new cases continues to surge in the country.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

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