The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dipped last week, while the number of applications for self-employment aid kept rising, the Labor Department said Thursday. The figures are a stark reminder that millions remain out of work even as businesses reopen.
Some 1.3 million Americans filed for initial unemployment benefits in the week ending July 4, a drop of 99,000 from the previous week. Another 1 million filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new federal program for self-employed and gig workers. That figure has been steadily increasing since early June.
While the number of people filing for jobless aid has declined every week since peaking in mid-March, the drop has been slower than economists would like. Applications for jobless aid have surpassed 1 million for four months straight, with claims more than twice as high as the worst week during the Great Recession.
More than 32 million people — about one-fifth of the U.S. workforce — are currently receiving some form of jobless aid. That figure has increased since last month.
A resurgence of confirmed viral cases is also threatening to derail what looked like the start of an economic recovery. Six states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Texas — have reversed recent moves to re-open their businesses. Those states make up one-third of the U.S. economy.
“Initial state claims have barely budged over the past month, and are only 16% lower than on June 6,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “Equally concerning, initial state claims increased in 23 states last week, including those with major virus spikes, such as Texas and Louisiana.”
In June, employers added a substantial 4.8 million jobs, and the unemployment rate fell from 13.3% to a still-high 11.1%.
Even so, the economy has only regained about one-third of the jobs lost since the pandemic began, and businesses continue to make cuts. In recent days, Levi’s has announced 700 corporate job cuts, and United Airlines has warned of potentially tens of thousands of layoffs this fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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