The Labor Department said Thursday that another 898,000 people filed jobless claims last week, highlighting how new layoffs are persisting at historical highs more than six months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week’s initial unemployment claims tally also shows a concerning spike of more than 53,000 compared to the previous week’s revised figure.
The government also said the total number of people claiming state and federal unemployment benefits topped 25.2 million for the week ending Sept. 26. In comparison, 1.4 million people claimed benefits for the same week last year.
The level of new weekly unemployment claims has stagnated near the 850,000 mark for the past few weeks, a significant drop from when they peaked at 6.9 million in the last week of March. For context, the previous record for weekly unemployment claims was 695,000 in 1982 — a record that has been shattered for 30 straight weeks in 2020.
The DOL said the states that saw the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Oct. 3 were Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts. New Jersey, Kansas and Pennsylvania saw the largest decreases during that same time.
The uptick in new jobless claims comes as lawmakers are debating a new round of stimulus. The extra $600 a week in pandemic unemployment aid has long since expired.
Many economists say stimulus for the unemployed is desperately needed during the COVID-19 economic crisis. Approximately half of the 22 million people who lost their jobs early on in the crisis have gotten their job back or been rehired elsewhere.
“This is not a situation of people don’t want to work,” Kathy Jones, the chief fixed income strategist at Charles Schwab, told ABC News last week, noting the unemployment rate was a mere 3.5% before the pandemic.
“A lot of people really want to work. It’s when the government shut things down because they needed to, because of the disease, they can’t work,” she said. “And so this idea that it’s their own fault, it just doesn’t work in this environment.”