This statement was published in response to the January 28, 2021 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 paints a picture of a job market struggling to regain its footing as Washington debates the next stimulus package. New claims registered at the alarming level of 1.3 million, down 122,000 over the previous week. Initial claims for PUA were down 20,000 last week to 427,000, higher than the 4th quarter weekly average of 360,000, as those with lapsed benefits have been forced to reapply. New claims for state benefits have flattened at 847,000 and were down by 67,000 (on a SA basis). Nonetheless, they have plateaued at a higher level than before the post-Thanksgiving virus surge, reflecting continued churn and limited hiring.
The report finds states still struggling to get benefits going after they lapsed in late December. PEUC claims came in at 3.86 million for the week ending January 9, up 837,000 but still below the 4.17 million registered on December 26. These claims were down despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers who exhausted their extensions of benefits before the end of the year can now reapply for the program. Claims for PUA are catching up faster, jumping by 1.6 million to 7.3 million, but still shy of 7.4 million at the end of 2020.
However, these claims for federal pandemic benefits do not mean that workers have received payments. While claims for pandemic benefits are down 3.5 percent from December 26, real time data from the Treasury Department indicates that actual payments are running at 38 percent lower than they should have been under the law over the first four weeks of January.
Meanwhile, ongoing claims for state benefits (generally for those out of work for 6 months or less) fell by only 5 percent last week, and the steep decline in state benefits from August to November is a distant memory as the job market has weakened. Lastly, claims for Extended Benefits for the extremely long-term unemployed are at 1.5 million, up 96,000 from last week.
Despite delays, claims by the long-term unemployed are on the rise, and will surely eclipse the level of need exhibited at the end of the year. Thankfully, all these workers will receive a $300 supplement through March 14. However, the stimulus squeezed out of Congress in December was only designed to get jobless workers through the winter and the pressure is quickly building on these families. With the impact of acting at the last minute in December now clear in the data, Congress must act expeditiously to secure jobless benefits through the fall as requested by President Biden.