U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS SHOOT UP TO 861,000
The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid rose last week to 861,000, evidence that layoffs remain painfully high despite a steady drop in the number of confirmed viral infections, Christopher Rugaber reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Applications from laid-off workers rose 13,000 from the previous week, which was revised sharply higher, the Labor Department said Thursday. Before the virus erupted in the United States last March, weekly applications for unemployment benefits had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
The figures underscore that the job market has stalled, with employers having added a mere 49,000 jobs in January after cutting workers in December. Nearly 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic.
Though the unemployment rate fell last month from 6.7%, to 6.3%, it did so in part because some people stopped looking for jobs. People who aren’t actively seeking work aren’t counted as unemployed.
Still, fraudulent claims for jobless aid in some states and other issues, including potential backlogs of claims, may be elevating the totals.
Last week, for example, Ohio reported a huge increase in applications and said it had set aside about half that increase for further review out of concern about fraud.
And this week, Ohio reported that applications under a federal program that covers self-employed and gig workers jumped from about 10,000 to over 230,000.
That could reflect a backlog of applications, because Ohio hadn’t reported data under that program until two weeks ago.
Likewise, Illinois reported this week that jobless claims under its regular state program doubled — from 34,000 to nearly 68,000. “The unemployment claims data remain a mess,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont.
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