WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 884,000, a sign that recovery is stalling and layoffs are stuck at a historically high level six months after the coronavirus pandemic flattened.
The latest figure released by the Labor Department Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, followed news last Friday of a further slowdown in employment growth in August and still far exceeds the number who sought benefits in any week on record before this year.
The 884,000 number of initial claims for state unemployment benefits was seasonally adjusted for the week ending Sept. 5. Claims dropped from about 1 million the prior week after the government changed the methodology it used to address seasonal fluctuations in the data, which had become less reliable given the economic shock from the coronavirus crisis.
Specifically, the government reported last week that the economy created 1.371 million jobs in August after adding 1.734 million in July. About 10.6 million of the 22.2 million jobs lost at the depth of the coronavirus crisis have been recovered.
The job market is improving fitfully as portions of the economy have reopened and companies are recalling some workers they had temporarily laid off.
But hiring has slowed since June, and a rising number of laid-off workers say they regard their job loss as permanent. The recovery of those jobs will likely take longer to achieve. Jobless people typically find it harder to find work at a new company or in a new industry than to return to a previous employer.
The government also said Thursday that 13.4 million people are continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 13.3 million the previous week. The increase suggests that hiring isn’t occurring quickly enough to offset still-widespread layoffs.
At least 29.6 million people were on unemployment benefits in August.
The claims data showed the number of people receiving unemployment benefits under all programs increased 380,379 to 29.6 million in the week ended Aug. 22.
This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) another government-funded program for individuals who have exhausted their eligibility for the regular unemployment insurance, 26 weeks in most states.
The PUA is for self-employed, gig workers and others who do not qualify for the regular state unemployment programs. Altogether, 1.7 million people filed claims last week.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.