Another million applied for jobless benefits as coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll rises

People wear their face masks waiting in line for an emergency food distribution at the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ on April 14, 2020 in Los Angeles, California, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time came in above 1 million for the 22nd time in 23 weeks as the economy struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Initial U.S. jobless claims totaled just over 1 million for the week ending Aug. 22, down from 1.104 million in the previous week. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial jobless claims expected claims to come in right at 1 million. 

It was the second-consecutive week that new claims was above 1 million. Initial claims were last below 1 million the week of Aug. 8, when they totaled 971,000.

“Continuing claims continue to drop, but still indicate a highly stressed labor market,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group in Virginia. “Even a 1 million person drop in the total number unemployed isn’t enough — there is a lot of work to be done because 14 million people are still receiving UI assistance of some kind.”

Continuing claims — which account for those receiving unemployment benefits for at least two straight weeks — fell by 223,000 to 14.535 million for the week ending Aug. 15. Data on continuing claims is delayed by one week. 

New Jersey and Florida saw the highest increases of initial claims for the week ending Aug. 15, as they rose by more than 11,000 in both states. Initial claims in New Yor  and Texas jumped by more than 9,000 in each state. Data at the state and territory level is delayed by one week. 

Thursday’s report follows a mixed batch of economic data. Durable goods orders for July surged by 11.2% last month while sales of new homes were up 36% last month. However, consumer confidence fell in August for a second straight month

Wall Street is also keeping an eye on the unemployment data as lawmakers have yet to move forward on a new coronavirus stimulus package. 

CNBC’s Kayla Tausche reported that Republicans are set to propose a stimulus bill that would provide roughly $500 billion in aid. However, this proposal is unlikely to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has indicated she does not plan to restart negotiations until the GOP agrees to double the price tag of its existing proposal of roughly $1 trillion. 

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