Jobless claims rise to 1.1 million as coronavirus total tops 57 million

Some 1.1 million Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, driving the total for the coronavirus pandemic above 57 million as the labor market struggled toward recovery.

Seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims rose above 1 million after falling below that level the prior week for the first time in five months, the latest US Department of Labor data show.

Continuing claims measuring sustained joblessness on a one-week lag dropped to about 14.8 million in the week ending Aug. 8, the feds said Thursday, an encouraging sign that more Americans are leaving unemployment rolls.

But new filings have stayed far above any level recorded before the pandemic despite steadily falling from their peak of 6.8 million. The latest figures show roughly 57.4 million initial claims filed since mid-March — more than the combined populations of Texas and Florida.

“The favorable direction of travel still leaves the job market well short of a healthy destination,” Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said in a commentary. “The effects of shadow joblessness — labor force exits — and long-term unemployment will persist for an extended period.”

The US added nearly 9.3 million jobs from May to July after coronavirus lockdowns led to record-setting job losses in April. But the number of who have permanently lost work has climbed to almost 2.9 million in that time even as the unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent, indicating the pandemic will leave lasting scars on the labor market.

A $600 boost to weekly unemployment benefits also ran out at the end of July, killing a key source of income for millions of jobless Americans. President Trump signed an executive order this month to continue the extra benefits at $300 a week, but only a handful of states have signed up to receive the federal funds.