The number of people seeking US unemployment aid rose slightly last week to 870,000, showing that the viral pandemic is still squeezing businesses six months after it first erupted. The figure coincides with evidence that some newly laid-off Americans are facing delays in receiving unemployment benefits as state agencies intensify efforts to combat fraudulent applications and clear their pipelines of a backlog of jobless claims, reports the AP. California has said it will stop processing new applications for two weeks as it seeks to reduce backlogs and prevent fraudulent claims. Pennsylvania has found that up to 10,000 inmates are improperly receiving aid. The growing concerns have focused mainly on a new program that made self-employed people, gig workers, and contractors eligible for jobless aid. Some 14 million people are classified as receiving aid under the program.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined to 12.6 million. The steady decline in jobless claims over the past several months reflects that some of the unemployed are being rehired. Yet it also indicates that others have exhausted their regular jobless aid, which last six months in most states. In addition to those receiving aid on state programs, about 105,000 others were added to an extended jobless-benefits program that provides 13 additional weeks of aid. This program is now paying benefits to 1.6 million people. About half the jobs that were initially lost in the spring have been recovered, but job growth has been slowing. In most sectors of the economy, employers appear reluctant to hire new workers in the face of deep uncertainty about the course of the virus.
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