860,000 Americans filed jobless claims last week

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Some 860,000 Americans lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The latest tally shows that new jobless claims have dipped significantly since peaking at 6.9 million in the last week of March. Still, it shatters the pre-pandemic weekly record set in 1982 of 695,000.

This week's figure is also the lowest since the pandemic began, yet the numbers are not directly comparable to many of the earlier weeks as the DOL announced earlier this month it was changing its methodology used to seasonally adjust the data. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique the Bureau of Labor Statistics employs to remove the influence of predictable seasonal patterns -- such as major holidays and back-to-school schedules -- on the data. The changes come as the pandemic has upended nearly all predictable seasonal patterns.

Meanwhile, more than 29.7 million people are still claiming unemployment benefits through all programs as of the week ending Aug. 29, the DOL said Thursday. In the same week last year, there were less than 1.5 million people claiming jobless benefits through all programs.

For the week ending Aug. 29, the states with the highest insured unemployment rates were Hawaii (20.3%), California (17.3%) and Nevada (15.6%), the DOL added in its latest release.

The states that saw the largest uptick in weekly unemployment filings for the week ending Sept. 5 were California (an increase of 23,841), Texas (a rise of 8,618) and Louisiana (a spike of 8,375).

Bankrate's senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick noted that this is only the fourth time since mid-March that the weekly claims have dipped below the 1 million mark.

"As time during the pandemic seems to both race ahead and stand still, new jobless claims have remained historically elevated for 26 weeks, or a half-year," he said in a statement Thursday morning. "The latest reading at 860,00 new claims in the programs administered by states marked a slight decline week-over-week and the fourth below 1 million since mid-March."

The latest count of highly-elevated weekly unemployment filings also comes more than six weeks since the extra $600 a week in pandemic unemployment aid has expired.

"While there has been continued posturing among officials in Washington regarding a new economic relief measure, the millions of Americans looking for help have nothing to show for it," Hamrick said. "In addition, a federal government shutdown looms October 1 unless Congress and the President approve new funding. If officials let that happen, they'll be adding financial insult to injury caused by the pandemic."

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