WASHINGTON (Washington Post) - About 884,000 people filed unemployment claims last week, holding steady from the week prior but marking the second straight week claims came in under a million, according to data from the Labor Department.
Another 839,000 had claims processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers, which have been rising for weeks. In early August that number had sunk to 489,000.
When added together, the numbers of new unemployment claims and PUA claims have risen for four weeks straight.
"It’s super disappointing,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab. "It really points to mounting damage from the coronavirus.”
The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance continues to go up, as well. As of Aug. 22, according to labor data, 29.6 million people were on some form of unemployment insurance, nearly 20 times the 1.59 million on jobless benefits during the same period last year.
The number of people newly claiming benefits has gone down steadily since its peak in March but remains well above pre-pandemic highs. The previous record for initial weekly claims was 695,000 from 1982, a level that the country has been above for more than five months.
The jobless benefits numbers come at a turbulent time for the economy. The unemployment rate in August dropped below 10 percent for the first time since April, but economists continue to warn about the potential for the labor market’s recovery to stall or worsen if more government aid is not approved.
At the same time, the number of jobs available in July has increased and stands at a bit over 6.6 million, making one job available for every 2.5 unemployed Americans, according to Labor Department data released Wednesday.
The $600 in supplemental benefits that many unemployed workers were relying on to pay their bills expired at the end of July, and Congress has thus far failed to come to agreement on extending it. The $300 a week of funding that some states made available through President Trump’s August executive order was expected to last only about three weeks.