Key Highlights

  • New claims for unemployment benefits hit +1.4M during week ending July 18, according to US Department of Labor
  • Claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance also increased +20,000 to approximately 975,000 

New claims for unemployment insurance benefits and for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance reflect the uptick of nearly 4M cases of the coronavirus. New claims for unemployment increased to more than 1.4M and new claims for PUA hit approximately 975,000 during the week of July 18.

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This is the first time since March that new claims for either of these benefit packages have risen. Clearly, the increases mirror the country’s intensified COVID-19 pandemic.

Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist with Oxford Economics, said, “The labor market remains in a precarious place, as COVID-19 cases surge in some parts of the country and fresh lockdown measures are adopted in response.”

The US Labor Department on July 23 indicated that roughly one out of every five workers in the country, roughly 30M, is claiming unemployment insurance. (A precise nationwide count of claims is newly impossible due to overwhelmed and understaffed state offices, inconsistencies, errors, double counting and the flood of new and backlogged claims.)

“At this stage, you’re seeing all the wrong elements for recovery,” said Gregory Daco, the chief US economist with Oxford Economics. “… deteriorating health situation, a weakening labor market and a softening path for demand.”

Ernie Tedeschi, a policy economist with Evercore ISI, agreed. Such high new weekly claims more than four months into the pandemic “…suggests that the nature of the downturn has changed from early on…it might be that businesses are running through their first line of credit (and/or emergency federal loans with the Paycheck Protection Program) and that now they’re facing the music of an economy that has recovered a little bit but not nearly enough…” while COVID cases surge upward and businesses pause their scheduled re-openings or, worse yet, shut down once more.

Simultaneously, people who had previously cobbled-together multiple jobs to get by in pre-pandemic times have now likely been furloughed from one job since the pandemic, had hours cut at another job and/or have been excluded from regular state unemployment benefits altogether. Others have received no benefits after waiting months or, inexplicably, have had their benefits simply cut off. According to the Project on Workforce at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, people who have waited the longest to receive any benefits at all are often Black or Brown, disabled, or don’t speak English well.

Thanks to US Department of Labor, National Public Radio and The New York Times.

Also read: Is the Worst Over?, “Scattershot Re-openings” Still Leading to 2.9M More Layoffs, What You Need to Know About Unemployment Insurance Benefits

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