This statement was published in response to the January 7, 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 unemployment report offers a glimpse of the distressed labor market situation in advance of tomorrow’s jobs report, and provides another important data point for national policymakers considering the next set of economic actions. In the week ending January 2, new claims for jobless benefits registered at 1.08 million, including 922k for regular UI and 161k for PUA (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis). New claims have steadied but are still stubbornly high, and registering above the pandemic low of 1 million on November 28, despite PUA claims being depressed by the delay in Trump’s signing of the law continuing the program which appears to have made the program unavailable for new applicants last week. The high levels of UI claims are consistent with forecasts of continued slow job growth (+50,000 predicted), following November’s disappointing result of just 245,000 jobs added.

Data on continuing claims shows just how important the recent stimulus, and future congressional actions, will be in addressing the high levels of unemployment. Today’s report indicates that 19.2 million Americans are still filing ongoing claims for jobless benefits. Claims for CARES Act PUA (8.38 million) continued to trend downward (-71k) during the week of 12/19, as many Americans began to reach the end of the 39 to 46 weeks granted by the CARES Act. The same is true with PEUC, down 293k to 4.52 million as of 12/19, as more than 2 million workers had run out of benefits at the end of November and hundreds of thousands more were set to exhaust them in December. Ongoing claims for state benefits (down by 126k last week on a seasonally adjusted basis) continue to fall faster than initial claims, as 26-week benefit packages started in the summer are running out. The only continued claims numbers rising are for the EB program, which is available to those who have been out of work for more than 9 months in certain states, but this aid only reached 951k as of December 19 (up 149,000).

Those who ran out of these federal programs before December 26 will get 11 more weeks of benefits and these numbers should pick up again. Those still out of work are able to rejoin the rolls, and benefit from a $300 per week boost in their benefits. This aid will keep millions out of poverty and prop up the economy during a transitional period, but it certainly won’t be enough.

It’s not realistic to expect 20 million workers will be able to find work by March, especially at the current pace of vaccine implementation and job creation. Senate Democrats have proposed a guaranteed 26 week extension of benefits to all long-term unemployed in 2021, and the continuation of the PUC and PUA programs. The new Congress and President-elect Biden will need to quickly get to work on the next economic recovery package once they take office in January.