Unemployment claims fall to 881,000, but layoffs remain elevated

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to roughly 880,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. The coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten the stability of jobs, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other sectors of the economy.

Just last week, over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits. The government said that 13.3 million people are continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 1.7 million a year ago.

The number of initial aid claims has exceeded 1 million every week except one since late March. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they never topped 700,000 in a week, not even during the depths of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. The economy has recovered 9.3 million, or only 42%, of the jobs that were lost in March and April.

“Things are getting slowly better, but we are a really far way from where we were in February,” said Martin Eichenbaum, Charles Moskos Professor of Economics at Northwestern University. “And it could go in reverse very quickly if we get a resurgence of the virus.”

On Friday, when the government issues the jobs report for August, it’s expected to report that employers added roughly 1.4 million jobs last month. That would still leave the economy about 13 million jobs short of the number it’s lost to the pandemic.

“There is no cure completely for the economy unless we get the epidemic under control so that people feel confident going out, doing whatever it is that they do in terms of buying stuff,” Eichenbaum said.

The wave of layoff announcements by major companies has heightened concerns that many job losses will end up being permanent. Ford is offering buyouts to try to shrink its U.S. white-collar workforce by 1,400. MGM Resorts is laying off 18,000, about a fourth of its U.S. staff. Coca-Cola, heavily reliant on entertainment venues, is offering buyouts to 4,000.

United and American Airlines, hurt by diminished air travel, said they will cut thousands of jobs unless the government provides additional aid to help cover payroll costs. Salesforce is cutting 1,000 jobs, Bed Bath & Beyond 2,800.

Until July 31, the unemployed were receiving an extra $600 a week in federal money on top of regular state unemployment benefits. The federal government is providing a $300-a-week benefit to replace it, though some of the unemployed won’t qualify.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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