This statement was published in response to the June 18, 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 unemployment report provided the latest evidence that, despite some leaders’ dreams of moving beyond the COVID-19 crisis, the United States is still in the throes of a major, ongoing joblessness crisis. During the week ending June 13, 1.5 million Americans filed for regular state unemployment insurance—more than five times pre-COVID-19 levels—and another 761,000 filed for new pandemic unemployment benefits. This report confirms that labor market problems have shifted away from mass closings and layoffs in immediate response to shutdown orders, and toward still-catastrophic numbers of new layoffs related to the long-term, reverberating effects of a recession.
All told, more than 31.9 million Americans are either newly filing or continuing to claim benefits, a staggering 20 percent of the entire workforce, which did not budge from this high level over the last week. The total includes 18.7 million Americans continuing to claim state benefits, 9.3 million Americans relying on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and 1.1 million on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that did not even exist in March. Last week marked the first time that over one million workers needed extended benefits, a number that is sure to rise in coming weeks.
These unemployment numbers come during the same week that Lawrence Kudlow, Director of the White House National Economic Council, pledged to end the $600 per week federal pandemic unemployment that is set to expire on July 31. This pledge flies in the face of rising COVID-19 numbers in states like Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas, causing places like the state of Oregon and the city of Nashville to slow down their “reopenings” and therefore slowing economic recovery. And it comes in spite of rising unemployment claims in some states, including California, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Opposition by the White House and Senate Republicans to the continuation of the $600 per week benefit threatens the livelihood of millions of Americans who are relying on it to pay their bills. Indeed, of the 29 million Americans who are eligible for the additional $600 per week benefit, 22 percent live in states where the regular state benefits are less than $300 per week. That means that workers in those 14 states would face an abrupt and immediate cut of 67% or more to their unemployment benefits on July 26. Regular state unemployment is not enough to cover the average rent in cities like New Orleans ($1,192 per month, $210 per week in UI), Miami ($1,700 a month, $254 a week in UI), or Charlotte ($1,259 per month, $268 per week in UI).
While some Republican policymakers have floated a “reemployment bonus” as a replacement to federal unemployment benefits, the real problem is that millions of Americans won’t be receiving a paycheck in the months ahead. The economic outlook is far worse than when Congress passed the CARES Act in March, and there’s no doubt that a stronger and longer period of assistance is needed. Congress must extend the boosted unemployment benefits before they expire.