This statement was published in response to the August 27, 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 Labor Department report indicates just how many working families continue to suffer as the nation navigates through the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of seasonally-adjusted initial claims for state benefits remained above 1 million for the second straight week, even after a slight decline earlier this month. The total number of initial applications (including for PUA, not seasonally adjusted) totals 1.4 million, and initial claims for PUA benefits increased for the second straight week.
Six months into the pandemic, the leading issue is not new layoffs but rather the exceedingly slow pace by which workers are being rehired. While most unemployed individuals still consider themselves to be subject to temporary layoffs, there is no end in sight. There were a total of 26.3 million workers filing ongoing claims for unemployment benefits last week, including 13.9 million on state benefits, 11 million on PUA, and 1.4 million on PEUC. While regular claims are falling, benefits for those out of work for more than 26 weeks have steadily grown and now are 50 percent higher than at the beginning of July (1.4 million compared to 940,000).
In the minds of some pundits and politicians, unemployment remained high this summer because of the CARES Act. But continued claims for state benefits were already dropping at a rate of negative 3 percent per week in the last three weeks in which the $600 was available, and now are only falling at a rate of 4.2 percent per week. In other words, our jobs crisis is the result of our public health crisis, full stop. Families and the economy have already lost out on $45 billion in PUC benefits since the cut off on August 1st.
To make matters worse, the Trump Administration’s Lost Wage Assistance program has proven to be an exceptionally poor substitute for the CARES Act benefits:
- Nearly a month after the end of the CARES Act, only three states have paid out benefits (Louisiana, Texas and Arizona).
- Texas, the largest of these states, is excluding one in every five workers because they have not certified that people lost jobs due to COVID-19.
- Payments won’t arrive until well into September or even October in many states, especially in the 11 states that have yet to apply for LWA pay.
- While President Trump initially promised $400 per week to workers, only four states (Montana, Vermont, West Virginia and Kentucky) have provided the necessary match.
Nearly a month after the expiration of CARES Act benefits, families are struggling to navigate the loss of billions of dollars in aid. With September rent due soon and food insecurity already at elevated levels, the worst is yet to come if Congress and the President can’t turn their attention to pandemic relief.