This statement was published in response to the October 8, 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 provides an epitaph of the nation’s commitment to smooth over the economic woes of families whose lives have been upended by the COVID-19 crisis. While nearly every unemployment claims measure remains sky high, the additional aid provided through the CARES Act is quickly withering away due to the lack of Congressional action, and the President foreclosed the possibility of further assistance. The sharp breakdown in negotiations has left the 24 million Americans already on benefits, and the 1.3 million who applied this week, with little hope of receiving the supplemental $600 per week that was cut off in July. These millions of workers are also staring down the December 31st deadline for the remaining CARES Act programs.
The rapid decline in support from federal policymakers stands in stark contrast to the slowing recovery of initial claims. For the 29th week in a row, more than 1 million workers filed new jobless claims—800,000 regular state UI and 460,000 PUA—and these numbers still don’t include a likely surge of furloughed airline workers no longer protected by layoff provisions. Initial claims for state benefits were up by 5,000 last week, on a not seasonally adjusted basis, and have completely plateaued over the last 2 months, changing only 4 percent between August 8 and October 3. This plateau makes it clear that assertions that cutting off federal unemployment aid would encourage Americans to return to work had no basis in the real economy.
Even as a steady number of workers file new claims, increasing numbers of workers are exhausting their unemployment benefits. The figures released today may even understate the problems, as data report only 2.3 million workers are on PEUC (1.9 million, up 150,000 from last week) or Extended Benefits, while more than 2.9 million have exhausted regular unemployment benefits during the pandemic. The increase in these extended benefits accounts for some of the drop in continuing state unemployment claims, which came in at 10.6 million last week (down 1 million from the week before). Many of these workers relying on state unemployment will exhaust benefits in October and November. Beyond these programs, 11.4 million workers filed claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (down by 430,000 from last week)—aid that will go completely away on December 31st. This data continues to be impacted by California’s decision to pause all unemployment applications and will be corrected in coming weeks.
The suffering facing the unemployed still reaches far and wide, and the failure to provide any aid for American workers will reverberate throughout the economy. For families depending on the lifeline of jobless benefits, the perils facing their families are likely to only get worse as we approach the cold fourth quarter end to 2020.