Initial jobless claims rose for the second week in a row, with 1.43 million workers filing for state unemployment benefits. Another 830,000 people applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits for self-employed and gig workers, bringing the weekly total to well over 2 million. It was the 19th week straight that unemployment claims have exceeded 1 million.
The data confirms many economists’ fears that the recovery is losing steam and may even be reversing course. “What's more worrying is that months after the virus arrived, we still have more people losing their jobs each week than at any point during the Great Recession,” said Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan. “The short-term virus-related economic suppression is turning into a more enduring recession.”
The latest data comes as lawmakers have all but closed the door on extending the supplemental unemployment benefits that have helped tens of millions of Americans keep their heads above water since layoffs began in March. The federally funded $600-per-week boost expires on Friday, and the last checks have already gone out. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein highlighted the severity of the potential cutoff in aid: “If unemployment benefits go away completely, more than 30 million Americans will see an income cut of between 50 percent and 75 percent -- virtually overnight.”