The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy, per the AP. The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programs—just when a $600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week. All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, though that figure could include double-counting by some states. Some economists say the figure is likely closer to 25 million.
Last week’s pace of unemployment applications—the 18th straight week it’s topped 1 million—was up from 1.3 million the previous week. Before the pandemic, the number of weekly applications had never exceeded 700,000. An additional 975,000 applied for jobless aid under a separate program that has made self-employed and gig workers eligible for the first time. The rising numbers come as more states roll back reopenings as cases surge, notes the Wall Street Journal. The federal government’s $600 weekly benefit for laid-off workers—which is in addition to whatever jobless aid a state provides—is the last major source of economic help from the $2 trillion relief package that Congress approved in March. A small-business lending program and one-time $1,200 payment have largely run their course.
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