US layoffs remain elevated as 898,000 seek jobless aid

The Associated Press
October 15, 2020 - 7:37 am

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, passers-by walk past a business storefront with store closing and sale signs in Dedham, Mass. U.S. employers advertised for slightly fewer jobs in August while their hiring ticked up modestly. The Labor Department said Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, that the number of U.S. job postings on the last day of August dipped to 6.49 million, down from 6.70 million July. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000, a historically high number and evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession that erupted seven months ago.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department shows that the job market remans fragile, and it coincides with other recent data that have signaled a slowdown in hiring. The economy is still roughly 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring.

The job search website Indeed said its job postings were unchanged last week, remaining about 17% below last year’s levels. Many employers still aren’t confident enough in their businesses or in their view of the economy to ramp up hiring. Job postings had rebounded steadily over the summer, but the gains have slowed in the past two months.

The recession has disproportionately hurt in-person service industries, especially restaurants, hotels, travel companies and entertainment venues. The damage to those industries has left millions of people unemployed, likely for an extended period until they are either finally recalled to their previous jobs or switch to new careers.

The government’s report Thursday said the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits dropped 1.2 million to 10 million. The decline signals that many of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs.

But it also reflects the fact that potentially even more people have used up their regular state benefits — which usually expire after six months — and have transitioned to extended benefit programs that last an additional three months. The extended aid programs were established by the financial aid package that Congress enacted in the spring.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:

The government will issue its latest snapshot Thursday of the level of layoffs in the United States, which remain elevated seven months after the viral pandemic erupted and after the expiration of federal unemployment aid for millions of Americans.

The still-high number of people seeking jobless benefits reflects an economy that has recovered only slightly more than half the 22 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic. Many Americans are facing unemployment with vastly diminished aid since a $600-a-week federal benefit expired this summer.

The latest weekly report on jobless claims coincides with fading prospects in Washington for a new federal rescue aid package that economists say is urgently needed for unemployed workers and struggling businesses, states and cities. Congress remains at an impasse.

At the same time, economists say they have grown increasingly skeptical about the government’s figures for unemployment claims, even though there is little doubt that hiring has slowed and many employers are still cutting jobs.

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