New US Jobless Claims Drop Below 1 Million, First Time Since March

Andrew Cummings
August 13, 2020

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 963,000 for the week ended August 8, compared to 1.191 million in the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. This metric, which captures the number of individuals still receiving unemployment insurance benefits, has improved in seven of the last eight weeks' worth of reports.

Claims peaked at a record 6.867 million in late March.

Thursday's report ended what had been a previous 20-week streak that new claims totaled more than 1 million, with tens of millions of Americans put out of work during the coronavirus pandemic and forced business closures that ensued.

A total of 963,000 jobless claims were filed, representing a week-on-week drop of 228,000.

New COVID-19 infections are spreading across the nation, forcing authorities in some of the hot spots to either shut down businesses again or pause reopenings.

The bigger-than-expected decline in jobless claims follows a slowdown in new coronavirus cases, underlining how important controlling the virus is to an economy that remains well below pre-crisis measures in most respects.

The latest declines in initial claims spanned states where coronavirus cases had bloomed in prior weeks, such as California and Florida, as well as NY, where counts have remained low.

All told, fewer people are also continuing to receive state jobless aid. That number dropped to approximately 15.5 million, its lowest level since mid-April.

There were 963,000 new filings for state unemployment benefits in the week ending August 8-a drop of 228,000 claims from the previous week, reports the Wall Street Journal.

For months, on top of their state benefit, unemployed Americans had also received the $600 a week in federal jobless aid. However, some economists pointed out that the recent decline in new claims may reflect jobless workers' reluctance to file, with the federal government's enhanced unemployment benefits having stopped at the end of July. On Tuesday, the Trump administration said it would cut the amount to $300 weekly after some states said they couldn't afford to pay their $100 share.

Counting all state unemployment programs, 28.3 million people were claiming some form of aid in the week ending July 25. The department said there are 15.5 million continuing claims, the lowest since the pandemic began. Including the gig and self-employed recipients, the Labor Department says 28.2 million people - roughly 18% of the US workforce - are now receiving some form of unemployment benefits.

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