This statement was published in response to the June 10, 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 further underscores the folly of those advocating for a premature cut-off of federal unemployment benefits. On the heels of a solid jobs report last week (+559,000 jobs), today’s report likewise shows a job market making steady progress out from the tremendous hole left by COVID-19. For one, layoffs have slowed dramatically, with new jobless claims standing at just 438,000, down 60,000 for the week and a whopping 58 percent from the beginning of the year, when new layoffs were routinely over one million per week.
Behind the headlines, the number of workers filing continued claims for unemployment has slid from 16.8 million on April 24 to 15.3 million as of the week ending May 22, a drop of 9 percent in just one month. This includes:
- 3.3 million on state benefits NSA (down 175,000 for the week, 10 percent for the month)
- 5.3 million on PEUC (down 70,000 last week, 1 percent for the month)
- 6.36 million on PUA (down 13,000 for the week, 13 percent for the month)
- 196,000 on EB (down 16,000 for the week, 54 percent for the month).
But rather than follow through with the promised support provided by the American Rescue Plan, 25 governors have made the unilateral and unfathomable decision to reject 100 percent federally-funded enhanced unemployment (in 21 of these states, governors even rejected PUA and PEUC benefits). These cuts will eliminate assistance for 4 million of the 15.3 million currently receiving benefits, including two million that will lose assistance altogether.
Data from the job search company Indeed showed only a minor, temporary increase in job search intensity in states that announced cuts to benefits, with rates returning to normal even as the deadline for the benefits cut-off approached. This underscores the reality that it is the strength of the jobs market, not the size of unemployment benefits, that will determine how fast Americans can return to where they want to be: a job.
New data released today by TCF show just how paltry the remaining benefits will be in these 25 states. Without the $300 supplement, Indiana (33%), Tennessee (32%), Arizona (32%), and Alaska (27%) will all pay less than one-third of prior wages to workers that remain on state aid after federal assistance is eliminated. Workers should not be forced to survive on unbelievably low unemployment pay—not during this recovery or at any time. Pandemic unemployment benefits have been one of the great success stories of COVID policy-making, preventing millions of American families from falling into poverty. They should be continued until the recovery is far further along, and then replaced by permanent reforms to the UI program so that workers can count on this safety net in all economic conditions.