The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic intensified five months ago yet still remains at a high level. The viral pandemic keeps forcing layoffs just as the expiration of a $600-a-week federal jobless benefit has deepened the hardships for many.
The Labor Department said applications fell to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week. The decline suggests that layoffs are slowing, though last week's figure still exceeds the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000.
The pandemic, the shutdowns that are meant to fight it and the reluctance or inability of many people to shop, travel or eat out are continuing to weaken the economy and force companies to cut staff. Twenty-three states have paused or reversed their business re-openings. In a hopeful sign, the rate of new confirmed viral cases has declined in the past couple of weeks, though it remains far above the rates that prevailed in May and June.
All told, fewer people are also continuing to receive state jobless aid. That figure dropped to 15.5 million, from 16.1 million the previous week.
For months, the unemployed had also been receiving the $600 a week in federal jobless aid on top of their state benefit. But the federal payment has expired, and negotiations in Congress to extend that benefit, likely at a lower level of payment, have collapsed in rancor.
The supplemental federal aid had enabled many jobless Americans to afford rent, food and utilities, and its expiration threatens to weaken consumer spending and further slow the economy. Unemployment benefits have accounted for roughly 5% of national income since April, a larger share than even Social Security. The loss of the $600 has shrunk benefits for the average recipient by one-half to three-quarters.
Here's an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.
- Negotiations over a new virus relief package have all but ended, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, re-opening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus.
- Thousands of school boards nationwide are tackling a simple but hefty question — do we return to school amid a pandemic? — with no right or even good answers, in the face of inconsistent testing and a near-constant increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
- A puzzling new outbreak of the coronavirus in New Zealand's largest city grew to 17 cases on Thursday, with officials saying the number will likely increase further. And a lockdown in Auckland designed to extinguish the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days.
- Spain is facing another surge in coronavirus infections not even two months after beating back the first wave.
- Like the defense stiffening at the goal line late in the fourth quarter, the NFL has implemented a wide array of health protocols designed to keep the virus from wrecking the 2020 season for this cultural institution that was a $16 billion business before the pandemic.
- Walt Disney World and the union for its actors and singers reached an agreement on Wednesday that will allow them to return to work, more than a month after they said they were locked out of the reopening of the theme park resort for publicly demanding coronavirus tests.
- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the COVID-19 pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones.
For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for a roundup of key virus questions.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.