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

The exponential growth of claims for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program are worrying economists and previewing a weakening U.S. labor market in the coming months.

What's happening: The PEUC is a CARES Act program for unemployed Americans who have exhausted the 26 weeks of unemployment benefits they get from their state. It has grown from 27,000 people on April 11 to 1.3 million as of Aug. 1.

Why it matters: The number of PEUC recipients has been over 1 million for four straight weeks and has increased each week. Worse, it's likely made up of people who lost their jobs before the wave of business closures that hit the U.S. in mid-March.

What we're hearing: "The real tsunami is coming," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, tells Axios. "My guess is at this point hiring in the industries that have been hit hard is going to abate."

  • "That leaves us with very little job creation in the rest of the economy but with still high levels of layoffs."
  • "I think the labor market is set to start weakening again here, particularly if Congress and the administration don’t get it together and pass more support."

What's next: "It becomes a longer tale of recovery with more labor market friction," says Julia Coronado, president of MacroPolicy Perspectives.

  • "You’re starting to see unemployment spells last a long time. The longer you’re out of the labor force and disconnected from your prior employer, the harder it is to reconnect."

The bottom line: "The recovery would be faster and more robust with the fiscal stimulus and there’s a lot more risk of a protracted, slower recovery and even some backtracking without it."

Go deeper

How consumer spending slowdown affected U.S. businesses

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The consumer-spending pullback whacked businesses that were already struggling to recover from the initial hit from the pandemic, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

Why it matters: This month’s lockdowns (or people curbing their own activity for safety reasons) will be a bigger setback for these same shops in the weeks to come.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

GOP Rep. Clay Higgins says he has COVID for second time

Rep. Clay Higgins during a 2019 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) Sunday evening that he and his wife have contracted COVID-19 for a second time and "this episode is far more challenging."

Driving the news: "Becca and I had COVID before, early on, in January 2020, before the world really knew what it was," he wrote in a Facebook post, confirming his son also has the coronavirus — which he described as a "biological attack weaponized virus."

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Team USA softball defeats Japan 2-1 in preview of gold medal match

Japan's Yamato Fujita held Team USA without a hit for the first five innings. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Despite failing to get a hit for the first five innings, the U.S. women's Olympic softball team managed to tie Japan in the sixth inning and win 2-1 in the seventh, thanks to a walk-off home run from Kelsey Stewart.

Why it matters: The same two teams, which were undefeated headed into Monday's game, will meet in the gold medal match scheduled for Tuesday evening Tokyo time.