U.S. weekly jobless claims jump back above 1 million

The number of people filing for unemployment benefits last week was greater than expected, raising concern about the state of the economy as lawmakers struggle to move forward on a new pandemic stimulus package.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 15 came in at 1.106 million. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a total of 923,000. Initial claims for the previous week were also revised higher by 8,000 to 971,000.

“The modest jump is a stark reminder that claims will likely encounter some turbulence as they fall rather than gliding in for a soft landing,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor.

Democratic lawmakers want to keep an additional unemployment benefit of $600 per week that was included in previous aid package. Earlier this week, more than 100 House Democrats urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pass a smaller bill that would reinstated the extra benefits. Republicans have indicated they want to extend the additional benefit at a lower rate. 

“It’s been four weeks without the $600/week CARES Act benefits for tens of millions of unemployed Americans,” said Zhao. “While a handful of states are approved to disburse the new $300/week benefits, it remains unclear how quickly the benefits will be able to flow to unemployed Americans already facing an unsteady recovery.”

Continuing claims, which refer to those receiving unemployment benefits for at least two straight weeks, declined by 636,000 to 14.844 million in the week ending Aug. 8. The continuing claims data series is delayed by one week. 

At the state and territory level, Nevada, Puerto Rico and Kansas saw the biggest initial claims increases in the week ended Aug. 8. Claims in Nevada rose by 4,028, according to the Labor Department. Jobless claims in Puerto Rico rose by increased by 3,601 while Kansas saw a spike of 2,248.

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