Number of Americans Seeking Unemployment Hits Lowest Total Since 2019

by Jon D. B.

Americans are getting back to work. The Labor Department’s latest report shows unemployment claims are down several weeks in a row.

Is this good news? It certainly feels it at first. We’re not out of the weeds yet, but the amount of Americans needing to seek unemployment benefits continues to fall. According to Thursday’s report from the Labor Department, unemployment benefits were sought by 310,000 individuals last week. This is an all-time low since the COVID-19 Pandemic began in early 2020.

The total comes after a revision that shows 345,000 unemployment seekers the week before. As ABC News points out, America is now on pace back to pre-pandemic numbers of around 225,000 individuals.

Yet there is still work to be done, Outsiders. As the delta variant spreads, the economy is in the midst of a “downshift,” says the Federal Reserve. The biggest dip came through July and August. It’s too early to tell if September will continue this trend outright. But less Americans are dining out and traveling amidst the highly contagious variant’s spread regardless.

This week marks the sixth decline in the past seven weeks for unemployment aid seekers. Hopefully, companies will continue to hold onto their workers through the rest of the pandemic’s hold. If we can avoid the tumultuous throws of 2020’s mass layoffs, firings, and jobs straight up vanishing – that would certainly be best.

Unemployment is Down, but So is Hiring

Unfortunately, ABC News also cites that the pace of hiring is slowing alongside unemployment, too. The outlet shares of the U.S. Government’s behalf that hiring slowed “dramatically” in August. Only 235,000 jobs were added last month. This is a stark contrast to roughly a million in June and July.

“While the August jobs report showed employers may have hit the pause button on hiring amid renewed concerns about the pandemic, the claims data suggest a reluctance to lay off workers amid a record number of job openings,” Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at the consulting firm Oxford Economics, tells ABC News.

Face-to-face industries like restaurants, retail, and hospitality, are the ones seeing the biggest drop in hiring. Strangely, however, the government reports an unemployment rate of 5.2% currently. This is down slightly from 5.4% the month prior, even with less hiring in certain industries.

It’s been a fiery point of contention, but the summer’s steady fall in unemployment applications does coincide with the scaling-back of pandemic aid. Many states have cut added benefits outright, and it looks to be bringing people back to work.

In fact, over 8 million people lost all unemployment benefits as two federal programs expired this week. Both were upheld from March of 2020 until now.

Economists say that the impact of this cutoff is not yet present in weekly unemployment claims reports. A delay of two weeks comes between fallout and numbers to report. In late August, almost 9 million Americans were receiving aid from these two programs.

In addition, 2.6 million Americans are no longer receiving state unemployment aid. The $300-a-week federal unemployment boosts are also gone as of this week.

And herein lies the catch. According to Eliza Forsythe, an economist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, unemployment aid requests may only be down because these programs have expired. Many of the jobless may think they aren’t eligible for aid any longer, she says.

We’ll know more come October.