Despite predictions that the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits would drop for the second consecutive week, more than 1 million laid-off employees requested benefits last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported on Thursday (Aug. 20).
For the week ending Aug. 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,106,000, up from 135,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 8,000 from 963,000 to 971,000.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the release of the latest numbers expected a drop in initial claims. These latest numbers boost total initial claims over the past 22 weeks to more than 57 million.
“One has to be disappointed to see the rebound in new claims for unemployment benefits, including gains for several key states including New York, New Jersey, Texas and Florida,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst with Bankrate.com, in a statement. “The latest number of new claims is five times that pre-pandemic weekly average.”
By way of comparison, he said, in the first 11 weeks of the year before the pandemic and lockdown restrictions took hold, the average number of new weekly jobless claims was just 218,000.
The latest data comes as Congress is deadlocked over a new stimulus package. The federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit expired at the end of July. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on how much the benefit should be.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier to provide unemployed workers $400 in weekly unemployment benefits provided the state they live in contributes $100 of those weekly benefits.
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency responsible for managing the distribution of the benefits, reported only seven states, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Utah, have been approved to participate in the program.