Some 860,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on the US labor market, the feds said Thursday.
Last week’s initial jobless claims dropped from the prior week’s revised total of 893,000 but brought the total for the coronavirus pandemic to more than 61 million — a number larger than the combined populations of California and Florida.
Unemployment filings have remained at historic highs for 26 straight weeks as employers struggled to bounce back from the COVID-19 lockdowns that sparked record job losses this spring.
The most recent seasonally adjusted total was well below the late March peak of roughly 6.8 million but still exceeded the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, according to the US Department of Labor data.
Workers laid off in the spring who are still looking for work will soon exhaust the 26 weeks of unemployment benefits that states generally provide. That could lead to a jump in applications for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides another 13 weeks of payments, according to Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger.
“In the coming weeks, jobless claims could start to fall at a quicker pace as more unemployed Americans exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits,” Winger said in a commentary.