The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell last week after two consecutive weeks of increases, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported Thursday (Aug. 6).
For the week ending Aug. 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 1,186,000, a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 1,434,000 to 1,435,000.
Thursday’s report reflected the 20th straight week that new claims topped 1 million, as the pandemic forced layoffs across the country. Since the week ended March 20, more than 55 million individuals filed for new unemployment insurance claims.
Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said the drop of about a quarter million new claims takes them to the lowest since late March when the country saw an unprecedented explosion in requests for unemployment assistance.
“Even with continuing claims falling to more than 16 million, this is hardly the time to check off the ‘mission accomplished’ box on healing the pandemic ravaged economy,” he said in a statement. “It says more about the calendar, with the approaching November election, than the condition of the economy that Congress has failed to pass another round of relief legislation.”
States with the largest increases in claims for the week ending July 25 were in Virginia (5,020), Nevada (2,842), Missouri (2,606), Indiana (2,218) and New Jersey (2,141), while the biggest decreases were in California (44,941), Georgia (37,329), Florida (17,514), Louisiana (13,568) and Texas (11,104).
Virginia saw layoffs in the professional, scientific, and technical services while Missouri was hurt by cuts in the accommodation and food services, administrative and support and waste management and remediation services industries. However, California benefitted from fewer layoffs in the service industry.
The latest report for new weekly unemployment insurance claims comes during the final week during which Americans were eligible for the $600 weekly enhanced federal unemployment benefits. The assistance was part of Congress’s original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March.
Lawmakers are at odds over the continuation of the program. Democrats favor it be extended until January while the GOP has offered lowering the benefit to $200.
The nation’s latest jobless-claims report also comes one day before the DOL will release its closely watched July Employment Situations report. It is expected to show July’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.6 percent, down from 11.1 percent in June. A Reuters survey of economists also found they expect the report to show nonfarm payrolls will likely increase by 1.6 million in July, down sharply from the record 4.8 million jobs created in June.