This statement was published in response to the August 20, 2020 release of jobs numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the most up-to-date data please visit TCF’s comprehensive UI data dashboard here.
Today’s Department of Labor report marks the third week since millions of unemployed Americans lost $600 per week in federal unemployment assistance. Notably, new claims for regular state benefits jumped this week, crossing the one million threshold (on a seasonally adjusted basis) after dropping below that high water mark one week ago. The number of those filing for initial federal pandemic assistance increased to more than half a million (543,000) last week alone, after falling significantly the previous week. For the third week in a row, the number of those struggling with long-term unemployment reached new 2020 highs. With 1.3 million now also receiving the PEUC benefit, it’s clear that what is keeping people unemployed is not overly generous benefits, but a lack of job openings.
As of this past week, 28.2 million people were claiming unemployment insurance benefits, representing nearly one-fifth of the workforce. As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, there are few signs that a sweeping jobs recovery will get millions back to work. The largest group claiming aid continues to be 14.3 million claiming state benefits, which smashes the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million in 2009, and is only down 6 percent since August 1, when the value of benefits dropped by $600. Every day that passes without an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits brings greater and greater pain for tens of millions of families.
President Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) executive action, which would divert funds from FEMA to add $300 to weekly UI payments—or half what they were receiving from the federal government before— is insufficient, poorly designed, and administratively impossible. Our analysis shows that LWA would cut the average value of per-person regular unemployment benefits from $908 to $608, a 33 percent loss. Alternatively, the HEROES Act, had it passed, would have delivered $130 billion in aid to families by the end of September, which is $86 billion more than the maximum allocated by the president’s proposal ($44 billion). These are billions of dollars that would serve to keep families, and their local communities and economies, afloat.
Trump’s presidential memorandum signals a complete breakdown of the social contract. It makes the deliberate choice to abandon people during the worst economic and public health crisis in modern history. Rather than propose a workable plan to meet the needs of the unemployed, the executive action political cover to the administration and congressional Republicans to walk away from negotiations until after Labor Day.