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Another 712,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans addresses the need for stimulus saying, "this is a real economic downturn, it's a public health safety crisis and so that screams out for remedies other than monetary policy."

Posted: Dec 3, 2020 9:51 AM


Another 712,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Labor Department, as the job market recovery continues to slow.

That was a bit lower in the previous week, which was revised higher.

Meanwhile, 288,701 workers filed for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides aid for workers like the self-employed and contractors. This number is not adjusted for seasonality.

Added together, 1 million Americans filed initial benefit claims on an unadjusted basis last week. Although that's a new low for combined first-time claims since the crisis started, the number is still higher than the peak of weekly jobless claims during the Great Recession, when they peaked at 665,000.

Continued jobless claims stood at 5.5 million, down from 6.1 million in the week before.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have exhausted their state benefits and receive aid from alternative programs, like the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, has risen once again, climbing by some 60,000 to 4.6 million in the week ended November 14.

In total, 20.2 million Americans received benefits under the various government programs in that week. That's down about 350,000 from the prior week.

Thursday's report comes just days after the US Government Accountability Office said that the Labor Department hadn't provided an accurate estimate of the number of Americans claiming benefits. States' backlogs are overloaded with the historically high number of applications, which is contributing to this issue.

On top of that, millions of people may not be receiving the full unemployment payments they are owed, GAO said.

Economists and lawmakers have relied on jobless claims data throughout the pandemic because its weekly release schedule is the closest to real-time economic data.

In spite of the rampant joblessness, the benefit programs created by the CARES Act in the spring are due to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

"Restoring Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is particularly critical given the shocking findings in a GAO report this week that found rampant underpayment of PUA, relegating millions of federal benefits recipients to below the poverty line," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Unemployed benefit recipients received an additional $600 per week on top of other benefits until the end of July through the PUC program.

It's a big week for employment data, with the government's jobs report due on Friday morning. Economists expect 469,000 jobs were added to the US economy in November, nudging the unemployment down to 6.8%. But some experts worry that the report, which is based on a survey conducted mid-month, won't show the full effect of the resurgence in Covid-19 infections across the country.

"With the pandemic raging, further closures of service sector businesses may bring new rounds of layoffs through the winter," Stettner said.

America recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic on Wednesday with more than 2,800 people dying from the virus.

Various states have reimposed lockdown measures to curb infections, which is in turn expected to weigh on economic and employment data.

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