New unemployment claims clocked in at 779,000 last week (on a seasonally adjusted basis), down slightly from the previous week’s 812,000 claims but still significantly high by historical standards as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force layoffs.
Another 348,912 people filed claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which extends benefits to self-employed workers not eligible for traditional state programs.
Thursday’s data shows new claims at their lowest level since November, but they’re still higher than the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 claims during one week in 1982.
17.8 million. That’s how many Americans are receiving some form of government unemployment benefit.
The Congressional Budget Office said last week that while it expects the U.S. economy to reach pre-pandemic growth by the middle of this year, it does not expect employment to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Democratic lawmakers this week began the process of advancing President Biden’s aggressive $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal in Congress over the objections of Republicans. The enhanced federal unemployment benefits authorized by the last stimulus package (worth $900 billion and signed into law by President Trump at the end of December) will expire on March 14, giving lawmakers an unofficial deadline to pass the next bill so millions of Americans aren’t faced with a steep benefits cliff. Biden’s plan includes enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $400 per week through September.
What To Watch For
The Labor Department will release jobs data for the month of January on Friday morning.