Key Highlights

  • US Labor Department reported 961,000 workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits

  • One year ago during same comparable week, initial unemployment claims totaled 282,000

  • Initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program hit 424,000 claims compared to 285,000 claims previous week

New Claims For Unemployment Benefits

New claims for unemployment benefits remained high with a total of 961,000 workers filing initial claims with their respective states, according to the latest data from the US Department of Labor. Furthermore, the Pandemic Employment Assistance federal program’s new claims provide relief aid to freelancers, part-time workers and others ineligible for state unemployment benefits increased to 424,000, up from 285,000 the previous week.

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Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the weekly supplemental payment of $300 to both federal and state benefits programs are set to expire in mid-March without any additional legislative action.

These state and federal unemployment numbers coupled with data from the Labor Department indicating that employers in December cut -140,000 jobs only underline the severity of the job market’s fragility.  Greg Daco, chief US economist with Oxford Economics, said, “Unfortunately, the labor market started 2021 with very little momentum.  There hasn’t been any improvement, and if anything, there has been deterioration.”

According to Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist with High Frequency Economics,“The level of layoffs is vey high, and the virus is causing serious disruption.  It’s going to be pretty rough over the next few months.”

Will Worked Get The Assistance They Need?

Asked whether or not a possible extension to the fed’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program would help workers, Farooqi responded by saying that “meaningful” improvement in the economy by mid-March was unlikely within such a tight time frame.  “More aid is needed for households and businesses.  Many (more) businesses will shut down (by mid-March), and a lot of jobs will be lost without (such assistance.)  That poses a downside risk for the economy in the near term.”

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Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist with Chicago’s Northern Trust, said, “There is no better economic stimulus that a successful vaccine rollout.  It will reduce the risk of human interaction and provide a basis on which different types of businesses can open more durably.”

Thanks to The New York Times.

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