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According to the latest unemployment data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday, the number of Americans newly applying for unemployment benefits through state programs remained just below 900,000 for the fourth week in a row in the week ended September 19. After significant improvements in the labor market following the initial shock brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recovery has progressed slower than hoped in recent weeks, as companies across the United States continue to lay off staff in the face of weak demand.
While jobless claims are way down from historical highs in late March/early April, the number of weekly initial claims remains elevated to say the least. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly claims had peaked at 695,000 in the fall of 1982, putting the latest numbers in a bleak perspective.
With insured unemployment through regular state programs standing at 12.5 million for the week ended September 12 and the total number of people receiving unemployment aid still above 25 million, the jobs crisis is far from over. When asked about his expectation of how many of the latest job losses will turn out permanent in a FOMC press conference in July, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that it “could be well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” and that “it could be some years before we get back to those people finding jobs.”
This chart shows weekly initial jobless claims in the United States since January 2020.