More than 1.5 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance in the second week of June, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
In the week between June 7 and 13, the total number of seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits fell to 1,508,000 from a revised total of 1,566,000 in the first week of June.
Roughly 760,526 Americans also filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an extension of jobless benefits to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic but do not qualify for standard unemployment insurance. Slightly more than 705,000 workers applied for those benefits in the first week of June.
Last week marks the 11th straight week of more than 1 million new claims for unemployment benefits, dating back to the initial lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. While the U.S. added 2.5 million workers to payrolls in May after losing more than 20 million in March and April, the unemployment rate remains at a devastating 13.3 percent, just 1.1 percentage points below the record high of 14.7 percent seen in April.
Experts say the millions of new jobless claims filed since the start of June signal how long it could take the U.S. to fully recover from the pandemic-driven downturn. While roughly 15 million unemployed Americans say they expect to return to their pre-pandemic jobs, according to the Labor Department, millions may be unable to come back to work in industries severely restricted by the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE in March added $600 to weekly unemployment benefits, pushing the aid above the average weekly wage in 38 states. Democrats are at odds with Trump and GOP lawmakers over extending those benefits after they expire on July 31 as the economy faces new threats from surging coronavirus cases in Texas, Arizona, Florida and many other states.
Republicans argue that the enhanced unemployment benefits create a disincentive for people to return to work if they can make more money staying home. Democrats counter that extending the boost will protect high-risk workers from potentially lethal trade-offs while supporting the millions of unemployed who worked in leisure and hospitality, travel, entertainment and other fields where the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains high.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that Congress should extend enhanced unemployment insurance “in some form" but declined to specify how lawmakers should keep up support for jobless workers.
"It probably is going to be important that it be continued in some form. I wouldn't say what form, but you wouldn't want to go all the way to zero on that,” Powell said.
“It's important to just keep in mind that some of the jobs are not coming back soon,” he continued.
Updated at 8:50 a.m.