The number of initial unemployment claims for unemployment compensation in the United States once again increased, to over one million. But the cumulative number of initial claims is still staggering, reaching 57.4 million workers by the end of last week.

This morning, the U.S. Department of Labor (pdf) reported that, during the week ending last Saturday, another 1.1 million American workers filed initial claims for unemployment compensation. They’re the third group to file for unemployment claims during the pandemic who are not going to benefit from the additional $600 benefit that was authorized in the CARES Act but which has now expired. Moreover, funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, which gave grants and loans to companies to keep workers on payroll, have been running out for many recipients.

I can’t pay my rent, electric bill, food, or car payments. I’m able to get the bare minimum with my allotted food stamps

said Sabrina Wickward Arce, a cosmetologist who is struggling to find a new job in Miami, Florida.

Here is a breakdown of each of the past twenty-two weeks:

• week ending on 21 March—3.31 million

• week ending on 28 March—6.87 million

• week ending on 4 April—6.62 million

• week ending on 11 April—5.24 million

• week ending on 18 April—4.44 million

• week ending on 25 April—3.87 million

• week ending on 2 May—3.18 million

• week ending on 9 May—2.69 million

• week ending on 16 May—2.45 million

• week ending on 23 May—2.12 million

• week ending on 30 May—1.90 million

• week ending on 6 June—1.57 million

• week ending on 13 June—1.54 million

• week ending on 20 June—1.48 million

• week ending on 27 June—1.41 million

• week ending on 4 July—1.31 million

• week ending on 11 July—1.31 million

• week ending on 18 July—1.42 million

• week ending on 25 July—1.44 million

• week ending on 1 August—1.19 million

• week ending on 8 August—971 thousand

• week ending on 8 August—1.11 million

While the number of continued claims for unemployment compensation has continued to fall from its peak, the total from the previous week (the series of continued claims lags initial claims by one week) was still 14.8 million workers. And we need to add to that an additional 11.2 million workers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.* Therefore, approximately 26 million workers are jobless and receiving some form of unemployment compensation.

To put this number in perspective, consider the fact that the highest number of continued claims for unemployment compensation during the Second Great Depression was 6.6 million (at the end of May 2009), and in the week before the COVID Crisis there were only 1.8 million continued claims.

In the meantime, at least 1,295 new coronavirus deaths and 43,006 new cases were reported in the United States yesterday. As of this morning, more than 5.5 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 173 thousand have died—with no end in sight.

The United States can therefore expect to experience new waves of business closures, which in turn will mean more American workers furloughed and laid off, and therefore steady streams of both initial unemployment claims and continued claims, in the weeks and months ahead.


*This is the special program for business owners, the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance.

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