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Unemployment claims rise for second straight week

Unemployment claims rise for second straight week

Initial unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row, coming in at a seasonally adjusted 1.4 million for the week ending July 25.

The 1,434,000 claims was an uptick from the revised 1,422,000 the previous week.

Weekly claims have surpassed an unprecedented 1 million every week since the pandemic took hold in March but had been on a downward trajectory until mid-July, as new COVID-19 outbreaks around the country led some states to reimpose restrictions that have shuttered businesses.

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But the unadjusted numbers, which may be more relevant given the extraordinary and unusual nature of the current downturn, rang in at 1.2 million, a decrease of 171,000. An additional 830,000 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a special program offering unemployment insurance to gig economy workers and others not typically eligible for state aid.

The latest unemployment data comes as Congress has reached a deadlock to replace expiring unemployment benefits.

Since late March, unemployed workers have had access to an additional $600 in weekly benefits, an amount that has kept many families afloat. That top-up is set to expire on Friday, though people are expected to already see a drop in weekly payments this week.

Democrats pushed to extend the benefit over the objections of Republicans, who say it is overly generous and dissuades people from returning to work. The GOP has proposed dropping the benefit to $200 for two months while states rejigger their software to move to a system that would offer people 70 percent of their previous wage.

A deal is far off, and not expected until mid-August.

Experts say that prolonged periods of unemployment are harder to come back from than temporary bouts, a worry as the unemployment crisis continues.

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"Right now, temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses and families across the country are facing a looming child care crisis in the fall," said the Atlantic Council's Josh Lipsky.

A recovery, he added, would depend on whether the U.S. is able to get the coronavirus under control.

"Unless we act with the same urgency shown at the onset of the crisis, the U.S. could face a double dip recession," he said.

"The recovery of the entire global economy depends on our ability to avoid another quarter like this one."

In related economic news, the Commerce Department on Thursday said that the economy shrank at an annualized rate of 32.9 percent in the second quarter, the largest drop on record.

Updated at 9:01 a.m.