Latest jobs data give the lie to Trump’s ‘great economy’
Almost 20 percent of U.S. workers getting jobless aid with millions more getting nothing. | AP

WASHINGTON—Some 18.16% of U.S. workers—almost one of every five—got state or federal jobless benefits in the latest week of available federal data, ending Sept. 12, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

That’s 524,856 more people than in the week before, BLS’s table showed. That increase in total unemployment aid beneficiaries does not count the 1,437,062 people who filed new claims for jobless benefits in the week ending Sept. 26, virtually the same number as sought the aid the week before that.

The BLS numbers give the lie to Republican White House occupant Donald Trump’s claim of presiding over a “great economy.” Trump cites the stock market’s increases, which benefit the capitalist class, corporate titans, Wall Street finaglers, and the 1%, but not the rest of us.

The state of the “rest of us” can be inferred by comparing the current jobless benefit figures with those from exactly a year ago, also printed in the BLS report. For the week ending Sept. 12 a year ago, only 1,423,884 workers claimed jobless benefits from all programs. BLS said that was one of every 100.

“The rest of us” also includes workers ineligible for state jobless benefits. Many of them—including port truckers, farm workers, adjunct professors, and child care and home care workers—got the $600 weekly federal checks OKd by Congress in mid-March, in a program where eligibility closed July 31.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his ruling Republicans reject all attempts by the Democratic-run House, including in a stripped-down Heroes Act scheduled to pass there this week, to revive the $600 checks through Jan. 31.

Millions of those ineligible workers, especially in the farms, child care, and home care, can’t get regular state-run jobless benefits due to past congressional racism, Service Employees Local 2015 April Verrett, of Southern California, reminded the House Education and Labor Committee the day before.

“There are still millions” of those workers “going without access” to worker rights, overtime pay, and jobless aid, she said in the Zoom session, held that way due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Fair Labor Standards Act” of 1938, which set up the state-run jobless benefits system, excluded the child care and home care workers, most of whom were and are Black women, “because Southerners wouldn’t get on the bill” unless those workers were omitted, she explained. Their exclusion “is part of our country’s history of deep and systemic structural racism.”

BLS data also show a continuing shift of people from state-based jobless aid to a special federal program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, designed to help some of the millions of workers whose previous checks ended after 26 weeks—or, in GOP-run states, fewer weeks than that.

PEUC gives them an extra 13 weeks of checks. In the week ending Sept. 12, 1,828,370 workers got those checks, almost 200,000 more than in the week before.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.