This statement was published in response to the December 3, 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 once again indicates the high stakes of the cut off of federal jobless benefits coming just three weeks from Saturday. The Labor Department reported that in the week ending November 14, there were a total of 13.4 million workers on CARES Act programs (8.87 million on PUA and 4.57 million on PEUC), both of which are set to expire on December 26. The totals on PEUC continue to rise as more of the five million plus workers who ran out of state benefits in September and October make it on to the last lifeline provided by the CARES Act. PEUC claims rose once again to a record level (+60,000 last week). All together, there were 18.7 million continued claims for benefits in the three main programs (including 5.2 million on state aid, down 670,000 last week as workers continue to steadily exhaust this aid).
And as we await the pivotal November jobs report, the spread of layoffs is by no means over. While the number of new claims for state benefits slid down by 122,000 last week to 713,824 (non-SA), there were still more than one million new claims for either federal PUA (288,700) or state benefits for the 37th consecutive week. With the pandemic raging, further closures of service sector businesses may bring new rounds of layoffs through the winter. While it’s difficult to get a clear reading ahead of tomorrow’s jobs report, growth is unlikely to come fast enough at a time when the economy is still short 10 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels.
Long-term unemployed workers got a glimmer of hope from Congress this week. Of particular note, the first bipartisan proposal in months included $180 billion in aid for the unemployed, including restoration of at least some of the $600 boost in federal benefits provided by the PUC program. Restoring PUC is particularly critical given the shocking findings in a GAO report this week that found rampant underpayment of PUA, relegating millions of federal benefits recipients to below the poverty line. Moreover, the package includes enough aid to provide at least 13 weeks of additional benefits to PUA and PEUC recipients—a vital bump for millions laid off in the spring and reaching the maximum length provided by these programs under current law.
But it’s not enough for Congress to get an “A” for effort in crafting a compromise package. The deal must quickly be finalized and passed, with Senator McConnell joining Speaker Pelosi in embracing legislation to advance jobless benefits, among other aid. There’s absolutely no reason that this aid has been left hanging for this long. Botching the finish would be a historic failure with immediate and tragic consequences for American families and the economy.