Despite Trump’s happy talk, 2.4 million more claim jobless benefits
A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. With the economy shrinking at an annual rate of 38 percent during the April to June quarter the result has been skyrocketing unemployment. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

WASHINGTON — Another 2,432,380 people filed for unemployment insurance benefits last week, the Labor Department reported, pushing the official total of jobless above 32 million, and the unofficial total far beyond that.

Just over 1.5 million (1,503,892) newly jobless sought state-paid benefits, funded by employers’ contributions and payroll taxes—sources that are rapidly running out of money from coast to coast. Those are actual numbers, before seasonal adjustments, which lopped off some 200,000.

The other 928,488 sought pandemic unemployment assistance, the official name for the $600 weekly federal checks. Those go to all jobless workers, but they’re the sole income source for jobless gig workers, actors and musicians whose venues have shut down, and other irregular workers who have lost jobs since the coronavirus pandemic officially hit the U.S. on March 13.

The jobless figures could get worse because the pandemic is getting worse, again. Already, states have announced a new round of business closures. It’s forced massive closures and the resulting joblessness and the economic depression.

Just after 8:30 am Eastern Time on July 16, the U.S. went past the 3.5 million mark in the cumulative numbers of people who have tested positive for the virus. That’s 26%  of the world total. The most-authoritative source, Johns Hopkins University, also reported 137,419 U.S. people (23% of the world total) have died.

All the jobless U.S. workers, but especially the second group, are in danger of falling off a financial cliff at the end of July, courtesy of the Senate’s ruling Republicans, especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. They’ve shown no urgency about extending the benefits through January 31, as workers and Senate Democrats demand.

About the only concession McConnell briefly made, in a radio interview while on the campaign trail in Kentucky, is to say solons might consider continuing the $600 checks to jobless workers who formerly earned under $40,000 a year.

DOL said 32,003,330 people officially claimed jobless benefits from all its programs in the week ending June 27. That data typically runs two weeks behind the national jobless claims filings and reflects state delays in getting the checks out to the affected workers.

Reports repeatedly surface nationwide of slow responses to jobless benefits claims, due to two factors: Antiquated equipment and systems and the fact that cash-strapped states have had to lay off almost two million workers, including workers who toiled in unemployment insurance offices.

Some $1 trillion in aid to the states, which would prevent further layoffs, accompanies the money for extending the federal jobless benefits through January 31. Both are in House-passed $3 trillion economic aid legislation McConnell is sitting on.

The measure also orders GOP President Donald Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to write and impose an emergency rule forcing businesses to implement worker protections against the airborne coronavirus, among other provisions.

Despite lobbying, legislating, and even an AFL-CIO court suit—which a federal court in D.C. rejected—OSHA refuses to do so. It’s also issued only one complaint against a company related to the coronavirus pandemic, and that was for a paperwork violation, not for actually not protecting workers against the virus.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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