First-Time Unemployment Claims Rise as Virus Surges

The coronavirus continues to rise sharply across the United States, causing governors around the country to impose new restrictions on business and residents.

Whether coincidence or not, there was also a significant increase in first-time unemployment claims during the week ending Nov. 14.

For the first time in five weeks, the number of claims rose, jumping by 31,000 to a total of some 742,000. For perspective, that’s more than triple the number filed weekly in early 2020; that number is also down sharply from where it was at the peak, nearly 7 million at the end of March. Even so, initial unemployment claims are at levels higher than in any other recession period.

“Momentum in the economy, all else equal, should continue, but the virus might cause a rise for a few weeks,” Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at BofA Global Research, told the Wall Street Journal.

According to data put together by Johns Hopkins University, there were nearly 162,000 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday, continuing a string of 11 days when records were set. More than 250,000 Americans have died from it.

In the midst of all of that, first-time requests for unemployment assistance are rising.

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According to stastistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor, such claims rose – by varying degrees – in 30 states.

Some of the numbers:

  • California, naturally, continues to lead the country in first-time claims. The state was up 1,216 to a total of 158,989.
  • Massachusetts was up 9,300 claims, to a total of 52,103.
  • Illinois had 46,526 first-time claims, but actually fell by some 20,000, the largest drop in the country.
  • New York had 43,299 claims, down 577.
  • Louisiana surged into the top five in first-time claims, at 42,724. That’s a hike of 32,000 claims, the largest rise in the nation.

In addition to Illinois, there were other states with significant drops in first-time claims:

  • Florida fell by 9,865 claims
  • New Jersey was down by 8,689 claims.
  • Washington fell by 8,516.

The total number of workers continuing to claim unemployment benefits fell to 6.3 million. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for people whose benefits have run their course has risen, with 4.3 million worker claiming it.

State leaders around the country are pushing Congress to act on another coronavirus stimulus package, including extension of unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of the year.

Forbes reported that some 12 million Americans will be hurt when both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expire the day after Christmas.

“Congressional failure to act would be an extraordinary blow to unemployed Americans,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao told Forbes. “The summer’s steady recovery is now well in the distance as health experts raise the alarm about a tough pandemic winter. Spiking cases and expired benefits are ingredients for a vicious cycle where Americans are pushed back into the workforce when the virus is already widespread.”