Number of Americans Applying for First-Time Unemployment Dips Below 1M for First Time Since March

For the first time since mid-March, the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits has fallen below 1 million.

A total of 963,000 Americans filed claims for initial unemployment in the week ending Aug. 8, which represents a decrease of 228,000 from the previous week, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The number of seasonally adjusted insured unemployment claims totaled 15.5 million for the week ending Aug. 1, down more than 600,000 from the previous week.

New jobless claims had totaled over 1 million for 20 consecutive weeks in the U.S. amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It peaked at almost 7 million near the end of March as the country went into an economic lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread.

The last time that seasonally adjusted first-time unemployment claims were below 1 million was on March 14, with 282,000 — just as the virus began making its way to the U.S.

The numbers last week are still historically high when compared to the same week last year, when only 218,000 people filed for initial benefits, CNN reported.

“The labor market continues to improve, but unemployment remains a huge problem for the U.S. economy,” Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services, told CNBC. “The number of people filing for unemployment insurance, both regular and [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance] benefits, continues to steadily decline as layoffs abate. But job losses remain extremely elevated, far above their pre-pandemic level.”

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At the state level, the biggest drops in unemployment claims, as per seasonally unadjusted numbers, were seen in Florida, New York and Texas. States that saw an increase in claims included Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. Puerto Rico also saw a rise in claims.

In March, the federal government enacted a $2.2 trillion relief bill aimed at providing economic relief to Americans amid the outbreak.

Congress is currently reviewing a second stimulus package, but remains at a standstill over total spending. They were expected to reach a deal by Aug. 7 but failed to finalize anything, according to Forbes.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump also signed off on an additional $400 in unemployment benefits to be given to those still jobless. The new measure comes after the $600 in weekly additional unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act expired on July 31st.

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