Weekly jobless claims rise slightly to 770K as US marks one year of recession

Seasonally adjusted new applications for unemployment insurance totaled 770,000 last week, according to Labor Department data, rising slightly as the U.S. marked one year since the start of the coronavirus recession.

Jobless claims rose by 45,000 in the week ending March 13 from the previous week’s revised total of 725,000. The number of new applicants for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance dropped sharply to 282,394 last week from 478,914 in the week ending March 6.

Altogether, 18.2 million Americans were on some form of jobless aid in the week ending Feb. 27, roughly a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shattered the U.S. economy.

Weekly jobless claims skyrocketed during the week ending March 21, 2020, as thousands of businesses shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. After lingering near 200,000 each week before the pandemic, weekly claims exceed 1 million from the end March until the middle of August and remain well above pre-pandemic records.

The CARES Act expanded, extended and supplemented unemployment benefits to cover the surge of jobless workers who may have slipped through the cracks otherwise. The relief bill signed last week by President Biden stretches these programs through the end of August.

One in 4 workers relied on unemployment benefits at some point during the pandemic, and the U.S. has sent out more than 1 billion payments since the beginning of the crisis, according to a report from The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

The U.S. has yet to recover 9.5 million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic, and COVID-19’s devastating impact on several crucial industries could make it harder for those workers to find new positions quickly. Even so, policymakers and economists expect the U.S. to rebound sharply once the country achieves herd immunity, potentially later this year.

“We’re clearly on a good path with cases coming down,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday, “but we’re not done and I’d hate to see us take our eye off the ball before we actually finish the job.”

Tags coronavirus recession Joe Biden Weekly jobless claims

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