This statement was published in response to the March 25, 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 shows a slowly-improving labor market, as for the first time in over a year, the Department of Labor has reported fewer than 1 million new claims for benefits. 684,000 new claims for state unemployment benefits (seasonally adjusted) were filed last week, a dip down by 97,000 from the week before, and 242,000 new claims for PUA were filed (-42,500), for a total of 926,000 new claims in the week ending March 20. With vaccine distribution improving, the economy is poised to ramp up from the additional economic boost being provided by the American Rescue Plan.
While this improvement is a relief to the millions of working families who’ve been beset by pandemic-spurred layoffs, it really just marks the beginning of the recovery. New claims remain 4.5 times pre-pandemic levels. There are still 18.7 million total workers who continue to collect one form of unemployment benefits. Most of these workers are on one of the two special, federal pandemic-related programs: 7.7 million on PEUC (up 735,000 during the week of March 6) and 5.6 million on PUA (up 119,000). Beyond pandemic aid, there are 4.2 million people on state benefits and 1.1 million on EB, which are both trending downward.
Data on PUA and PEUC is lagged however, and the figures released today are only through March 6—the week before these benefits expired. Early indications point to only modest delays delivering of the renewed PUA and PEUC programs, enacted into law two days before the expiration deadline. The data that we do have, on money delivered, shows unemployment benefits fell off by $1.4 billion dollars in the week ending March 19th, equivalent to just under 2 million fewer people receiving unemployment benefits than before the cut-off. States that experienced delays of 3 weeks or more in January, after then-President Trump’s delay signing the package with an extension, like Florida and Colorado, have already reported paying out PEUC and PUA this time around.
The American Rescue Plan aid can’t reach these workers soon enough. It will take months of economic growth, vaccine implementation, and a rebuilt child care sector to reintegrate millions of sidelined workers back into full-time work. The American Rescue Plan is poised to cushion the families relying on unemployment and deliver the economic stimulus needed to speed that recovery.