This statement was published in response to the September 24, 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, the Labor Department reported on the continuing crisis of pandemic unemployment. As the nation was consumed by discussions on the future of the Supreme Court, millions of American continued to depend on the increasingly tenuous lifeline of unemployment benefits. Last week, another 1.5 million jobless filed new claims for unemployment benefits, including 820,000 regular and 630,000 PUA. Initial claims for state benefits even ticked up last week by 28,500 (on a non seasonally adjusted basis).
As these data show, the recovery still remains far too slow for millions who were laid off in the spring and summer. The Labor Department reported separately that just shy of one million workers exhausted their first six months of state benefits in August—the highest one month figure since the data began being recorded in 1971. This has translated into 1.6 million workers filing for PEUC extended benefits in the week ending September 5th. In addition, there are 12.3 million workers still on their six month course of state benefits, and another 11.5 million workers on PUA.
Despite modest improvement in these continued claims (continued state claims are down 167,000 from last week), it will take months of jobs recovery before there will be enough jobs in the economy to reattach the 25.5 million workers who have been temporarily or permanently displaced by pandemic and who remain on unemployment. Indeed, only faster progress against the virus itself will assuage the unemployment struggles of so many workers in fields like entertainment who can’t return to their jobs until social distancing restrictions are relaxed.
Today’s report comes during a week in which the debate over the Supreme Court and the looming election have closed the door on the possibility of a new agreement to restart pandemic aid before December. The additional aid to the unemployed is quickly fading away. The $600 per week pandemic unemployment supplement expired nine weeks ago.
The temporary replacement for this benefit, Lost Wages Assistance, is quickly running out as the limited FEMA pot allocated for these payouts dries up. Already, 22 states have paid out all of their funds for this program, and most others will soon run out as well. And, the PUA program that has supported millions of caregivers and gig workers will come to a screeching halt on December 31 unless Congress extends it. Amidst all the controversies and high stakes issues, this Congress and President Trump will have to find a way to finish the job for the unemployed.