New unemployment claims dip slightly but still above a million

Another 607,806 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers. In total, roughly 27 million people are receiving some form of unemployment insurance, the Department of Labor said.

“Continuing claims are falling but much slower earlier in the recovery,” said Augustine Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “The labor market is gradually improving, but the pace we saw earlier in may, June and July appears to have slowed. And we see fewer people leaving unemployment insurance and returning to work.”

The weekly data release does not contain a detailed break down by industry, but in a section where state employment agencies can make notes on their claims, several noted layoffs in industries that had not been directly affected by shutdowns, like administrative services, health care, and manufacturing, Faucher pointed out.

“It suggests that these layoffs are more broad based, and not just due to restrictions that states put in place, but due to lower demand,” Faucher said.

The numbers, for the week ending Aug 22, come a week before the release of the country’s unemployment rate for August.

Economists have warned that the labor market recovery that began in May could be in jeopardy, pointing in part to the steady stream of new unemployment claims that continue to be made, week after week. Before the pandemic, the highest number of new weekly claims was 695,000, from 1982 — a threshold that county has nearly doubled most weeks since March.

Unemployment benefits, which many jobless Americans say have been keeping them afloat, have sharply decreased after Congress let an extra $600 a week in supplemental insurance expire at the end of July.

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