This statement was published in response to the November 25, 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 Labor Department report shows how the uncontrolled pandemic is presenting a sturdy obstacle to the jobs recovery. For the second straight week, new claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up by 78,000 to a non-SA basis of 827,000 (or 778,000 SA), as businesses are forced to furlough or layoff workers anew amid necessary social distancing requirements. Not surprisingly, states like Michigan and Illinois, forced to impose strict requirements as they sought to stave off a third wave, had large one week jumps in claims. The increase is just the latest in a series of data points showing a likely slow down in the jobs recovery, ahead of next week’s pivotal November jobs report. When new claims for federal benefits are included, 1.1 million Americans filed new claims for UI.
The surging pandemic could not come at a worse time for jobless Americans. Roughly 13.7 million out of work Americans (9.1 million on PUA and 4.5 million on PEUC) are relying on benefit payments from programs that were enacted by the CARES Act and expire on December 26. In contrast, just 6.5 million are on the two main programs—state benefits (5.9 million) and EB (600,000)—that will continue in some form in 2021.
The number of workers collecting state benefits is plummeting, having fallen by more than half since the start of September and down 168,000 over the last week to the current level of 5.9 million. In the last three months (August-October), 6.4 million workers have exhausted their allotment of state benefits (which max out at six months) without fining work. That’s more than had exhausted benefits in any year since 2009. Despite delays typical to CARES Act programs, many of these workers have made their way over to the PEUC program, which reached a record level of 4.5 million in the week ending November 7 (up by 132,000 over the last week). Moreover, PUA claims remain at sky high levels (9.1 million, up 466,000 from last week and reversing recent declines) and will likely remain so as long as people can’t work because of the virus itself, its impact on child care, or the slowdown in the gig economy.
The end of the CARES Act is a harsh start to the holiday season and heading to a bleak new year to millions of families. People across the country will likely lose their last economic lifeline and face eviction or similar ruinous hardships. The good news is that Congress appears to finally be waking up to the reality that a historic benefits cliff will occur in just four and a half weeks. The terrifying prospect of up to 12 million workers losing access to CARES Act benefits must be enough to bring Senate Republicans to the table to negotiate an end of the year relief package, including first and foremost unemployment insurance.