This statement was published in response to the December 23, 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 underscores just how important it was for Congress to deliver a stimulus package and avert a massive benefits cliff the day after Christmas. In the week ending December 19, another 1.26 million workers filed new applications for jobless claims. New claims were down from last week, but still significantly higher than the low of 1.02 million reached November 7, as the unrelenting pandemic continues to force layoffs despite hopes of a vaccine.
The new claims include 397,500 workers who applied for the federal PUA program, one of two CARES Act programs which would have expired on December 26 had Congress failed to extend benefits. There were already 9.27 million Americans filing for PUA benefits, most of whom are approaching the original 39-week limit and who will now receive an additional 11 weeks that can cover unemployment through April 11, 2021. The new extension is particularly vital for the 4.8 million long-term unemployed workers on PEUC benefits, down slightly—by 7,000— from last week’s record high. Moreover, 2 million workers had already exhausted PEUC benefits by the end of November and could get back on these benefits in the new year under the deal.
In the week ending December 12, 5.44 million workers filed ongoing claims for state benefits, down by 47,500 from last week but down only 8 percent over the last month, compared to 21 percent in the prior month. The stimulus bill will help these workers as well, by providing a $300 per week supplement on top of the average $317 weekly base check. Indeed, all workers on any kind of UI benefits—including state benefits, PUA or PEUC—will qualify for this boost that will enable UI aid to cover a greater share of basic expenses like rent, food, transportation, and health care.
While unemployed workers had hoped for far more from this deal—including retroactive pay and a restoration of the original $600 per week top up—today’s report underscores how timely and impactful the bill will be for working families come January. Sadly, this aid to families quickly falling behind on their bills is being needlessly delayed by President Trump’s refusal to swiftly sign legislation to trigger relief and keep the government open after December 29th.
Unemployment benefits have been perhaps the most important economic cushion during the pandemic, and Congress would be wise to build on their success this week and ensure that robust benefits are available to workers until the economy truly recovers.