U.S. Jobless Claims Have Remained Near Pandemic Lows in September

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The recent increase in profit filings was driven by temporary factors. Economists expect the decline in claims to resume in the coming weeks.

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Still, the four-week moving average, which measures volatility in the weekly data, stood at 340,000, above the lowest level since the start of the Covid-19 crisis last year.

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new claims 11,000. increase of The Labor Department said Thursday that a seasonally adjusted 362,000 last week. California was the driver of growth. Claims rose by 18,000 in the state last week, but the total, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, fell for the rest of the country.

California’s Department of Employment Development said those transferring between unemployment programs are being counted as new applicants, even if they have been receiving benefits for some time. The department also said that some of the new claims are coming from people who were recently deducted benefits, and those applications are likely to be rejected because of insufficient work history in the past 18 months.

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Meanwhile, the number of claims issued for jobless benefits fell sharply in early September, as special federal pandemic programs closed across the country. Overall claims issued fell to 5 million for the week ended September 11, from 11.3 million in the previous week. This figure is not seasonally adjusted and is reported at delays of several weeks.

Broadly speaking, recent labor market data suggests that employers remain reluctant to let workers into a tight labor market, and concerns around the delta version of COVID-19 may be understated, economists say. have to say. New Covid cases, while still increasing since July, have decreased in recent weeks.

The “high growth in jobless applications” reflects moderation in overall economic activity, said Oxford Economics economist Cathy Bosjanic. “However, we expect initial claims to return to their downside in the coming weeks as the economy resumes strong momentum.”

The recent level of claims is well below the millions of weekly applications made in the spring of 2020, but remains well above the 2019 weekly average of 218,000. Despite the increase in Covid-19 cases due to the delta version and the economic uncertainty it caused, claims fell short in the summer.

Thursday’s claims report provides a first look at unemployment rolls in after federal unemployment benefits were expanded and increased to respond to the pandemic that ended in all states in September. Continuing claims made for pandemic programs are reported at a delay of several weeks.

The end of the programs means that millions of Americans stop receiving hundreds of dollars in additional weekly aid.

The recently-expired programs were created to respond to the pandemic’s impact on the labor market in early 2020, when more than 20 million jobs were lost in two months. One program provided payments to gig workers and others generally were not eligible to tap unemployment insurance. Another extended payment to individuals who terminate state benefits. In addition, the federal government funded an increase of $300 per week for all unemployment programs.

Joint issued claims—a proxy for payees—in those two programs fell to 2 million in the week ending Sept. 11, from 8.5 million the previous week. It will take weeks for that total to drop to zero as state systems, which have struggled to keep up with the volume of applications during the pandemic, need to hold onto the backlog. Some states that closed programs weeks ago are still reporting few recipients.

At their peak in August 2020, more than 16 million sustained claims were made for the main two pandemic events. About half of the states worked to end participation in the spring and summer before the programs were completely phased out.

Some economists say the end of the programs would encourage former recipients to accept open positions, helping to ease the labor crisis. Others say it removed the support that is still needed, particularly for those unable to work because of a lack of child care or safety concerns.

“The end of these programs is one way the incentives really work,” said Isabel Soto, director of labor market policy at the conservative-leaning think tank American Action Forum. She thinks lower benefit pay will encourage more people to seek jobs, although uneven reopening of schools and other factors will keep some Americans out of the workforce.

Ms Soto estimated that 37% of recipients were paid more on benefits than in previous jobs when receiving the $300 supplement. She also said she found that new applications for unemployment assistance fell 14% in states that ended programs early, while continuing claims fell by 5%.

“The end of pandemic unemployment insurance programs should increase job creation,” she said.

Labor Department data showed that states that ended benefits early had the same level of job growth this summer as other states.

The increased number of COVID-19 cases in August and early September due to a delta version and a shortage of child care workers means that many people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, especially black and Latino women, are still returning to work. are unable to. said Michelle Holder, economist and chief executive officer of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal-minded think tank.

“The economy remains in recovery mode, and there is still a deadly virus out there,” she said. “The idea that unemployment benefits were the primary reason people weren’t taking jobs was not correct, and now we have seen that.” Dr. Holder said that while he expects macroeconomic recovery to continue, the force of expansion may lose steam as unemployment benefits and other stimulus payments end for millions of Americans.

Eric Morath at [email protected]

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