This statement was published in response to the November 12, 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 UI report comes on the heels of last week’s jobs report, which showed a misleadingly low unemployment rate. Last week, another 1 million workers newly applied for jobless benefits—the 34th week in a row since the jobs crisis began on March 21st—with claims for state benefits (723,000) and PUA (298,000) both down slightly this week. Today’s report indicates that in total, 21 million workers are claiming unemployment benefits, meaning that 13 percent of the labor force is either laid off, furloughed, partially unemployed or unable to work because of the pandemic.
Yet even UI data is becoming a less reliable indicator of economic stress, since the drop in unemployment claims is resulting not from reemployment but from exhaustion of benefits. The number of workers collecting state jobless benefits has plummeted by 4.3 million in the month of October. This drop is no surprise, as at least 12.2 million workers started their state UI benefits in April, and are reaching the cap of six months of benefits.
As new bank data confirm, family savings are reaching perilously low levels as the impact of federal jobless supplements fades and the toll of a half-year of joblessness sets in. Roughly 4.1 million workers are on federal PEUC benefits—a record high, and the first time the figure has crossed the 4 million mark. Another 552,000 are on extended benefits (an additional 13 weeks of state benefits when unemployment is high). But even these lifelines are at risk, as PEUC cannot be paid after December 26, and extended benefits will soon expire in many states due to arcane and arbitrary rules. What’s more, this week there were 9.4 million claims for PUA benefits, which also expire on December 26.
The clock is ticking. It would be unconscionable and unprecedented for Congress to cut off aid to millions of jobless workers the day after Christmas in the face of a worsening pandemic. 2020 has dealt the American people numerous blows. Taking away life-saving aid during the holiday season shouldn’t be one of them.