COVID-19 impact: 1.4 million Americans seek jobless aid, first increase since March

The US Labor Department said on Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits

Coronavirus latest: US unemployment figures soar
Coronavirus latest: US unemployment figures soar


The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy.

The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation's safety net programmes just when a USD 600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week.

All told, the Labor Department said on Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, though that figure could include double-counting by some states. Some economists say the figure is likely closer to 25 million.

Last week's pace of unemployment applications the 18th straight week it's topped 1 million was up from 1.3 million the previous week. Before the pandemic, the number of weekly applications had never exceeded 700,000.

An additional 975,000 applied for jobless aid under a separate program that has made self-employed and gig workers eligible for the first time. That figure isn't adjusted for seasonal trends, so it's reported separately.

The resurgence of confirmed viral cases across the country has forced some businesses to close a second time or to impose tighter restrictions on customers in response to state mandates. The resulting pullback in business activity has hindered job growth and likely forced additional layoffs.

The federal government's USD 600 weekly benefit for laid-off workers which is in addition to whatever jobless aid a state provides is the last major source of economic help from the USD 2 trillion relief package that Congress approved in March. A small business lending program and one-time USD 1,200 payment have largely run their course.

Members of Congress are negotiating another aid package that might extend the USD 600 benefit, though likely at a lower level. Because of the USD 600 weekly federal benefit, roughly two-thirds of the unemployed are receiving more in aid than they earned at their former jobs, research has shown a finding that's led Republicans to argue that it is discouraging people from returning to work.

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