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Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 25.5 million people were collecting unemployment benefits as of mid-September, and nearly 1.3 million people filed first-time jobless claims last week — more than 800,000 for traditional unemployment and 464,000 for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The state of play: That number excluded any new claims from the largest state in the country, California, which paused its program to implement fraud prevention technology and comb through a backlog of claims that had reached nearly 600,000 and was growing by 10,000 a day.

The big picture: California isn't the only place where issues with unemployment claims are rising.

  • The persistently high number of claims drive an uneasy contrast with the continued decline in the unemployment rate and improving numbers on the Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey to the point that University of Oregon economist Tim Duy says, "We should be more skeptical about the initial claims data."
  • "The claims data lets you view the current environment as a repeat of the last recovery," Duy writes in his Fed Watch blog.
  • "If the claims data is deeply corrupted, the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. I keep saying the same thing: This isn’t the 2007-09 recession or the 2009-2020 recovery. It’s something different."

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.

Oklahoma Supreme Court temporarily blocks abortion restrictions

A pro-choice activist demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 4, 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked three abortion restrictions set to take effect on Nov. 1.

Why it matters: The laws would place new limits on medication-induced abortions and require doctors who perform abortions to attain board certification in obstetrics and gynecology.

U.S. freezes aid to Sudan over military coup

Protesting the coup in Khartoum. Photo: AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has frozen a $700 million aid package to Sudan after a military coup on Monday threatened to end the country's transition toward democracy.

Driving the news: At least three protesters have been killed and dozens wounded in the chaotic scenes that followed the announcements from Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan's ruling council, dissolving the government and declaring a state of emergency.