The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has held relatively steady for the fifth straight week.
According to the Labor Department, initial jobless claims for the seven days ended Sept. 26 fell by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 837,000. Economists had predicted 850,000 applications.
The data also showed that continuing claims, which paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by one week, amounted to 11.8 million, compared with the prior week’s 12.7 million and forecasts of 12.2 million.
However, the number of unemployed Americans has hovered over 800,000 for more than a month and remains seven times higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Until mid-March, weekly applications held at about 200,000. (The previous record for most claims filed came in October 1982 at 695,000.) Since the coronavirus swept the United States, however, nearly 62.8 million people lost their jobs and, as a result, sought benefits from the government.
U.S. policymakers are currently negotiating ways to move forward with a new stimulus package to help boost the economy. Yesterday, House Democrats postponed a vote on a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill in an effort to reach a consensus with their Republican counterparts on a plan that would help give a financial boost to individuals, businesses and states. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met at the Capitol following months of an impasse over the terms of the package.
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Like the CARES Act enacted in late March, the newly unveiled COVID-19-related legislation would provide a second round of $1,200 checks for individuals and $500 per dependent. It also seeks to restore the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits, which expired at the end of July, and continue those payments through the end of January.
What’s more, the measure plans to offer $436 billion in aid to states and cities — a significant drop from the $900 billion that Democrats had included in the original text of their HEROES Act. It would not only bring back the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, but also grant additional funding to the hard-hit airline industry through the Payroll Support Program. That bill, however, is expected to face a tough bout in the Senate.