New claims for state jobless aid jump 32% in one week
People wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. | John Locher/AP

WASHINGTON—New claims for state-paid jobless benefits, before seasonal adjustments, jumped 32% in one week, to just under a million in the week ending Dec. 5, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

And even when you take seasonal factors into consideration, the increase was still 19%, BLS added.

The numbers—947,504 new state jobless aid claims in the week ending Dec. 5, compared to 718,522 the week before—show the forced second round of coronavirus pandemic-caused business closures is hitting home among U.S. workers.

So is the pandemic. On Dec. 9, the U.S. set a new daily record for deaths from the coronavirus, 3,124. As of 10 am, Dec. 10, 289,541 people have died, equal to the population of Lincoln, Neb.

“I’m urging elected officials to do something for the people because we are dying,” Bronx tenant organizer Juan Nunez told a Zoom forum on Dec. 9, organized by the People’s Bailout to lobby lawmakers for further jobless aid.

Meanwhile, the business closures are continuing, in a second attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Before that, much of the economy reopened too soon and too rashly, thanks to political pressure from GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump and his Republican sycophants.

Overall, BLS said, 1,374,113 people sought two types of jobless aid the week of Dec. 5: The regular state-paid benefits and special federal pandemic benefits, an extra 13 weeks of aid, available at the same rate, to workers who have already exhausted their state jobless aid. Claims for those 13 weeks of extra aid rose by 48%, to 427,609, in the week ending Dec. 5.

The gloomy numbers came as the GOP-run Senate tied itself up in knots over whether, when, and how much further aid to give to the jobless. Of the nation’s 146.58 million workers, one of every 7.7—just over 19 million—received some form of state or federal jobless aid, BLS reported.

“Republicans in the Senate allowed the across-the-board $600 increase in weekly UI (unemployment insurance) benefits to expire at the end of July. Last week was the 19th week of unemployment in this pandemic for which recipients did not receive the extra payment,” Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Economic Policy Institute, said in the first of several tweets commenting on the BLS numbers.

“And w/o congressional action, PUA & PEUC”—the federal jobless aid programs—”will expire on Dec 26. Millions of workers are depending on these programs (DOL reports 13.1 million in the latest data). When they expire, millions of these workers & their families will be financially devastated,” she added.

Many federal jobless benefits, along with bans on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs, expire Dec. 26. The Senate’s ruling Republicans are still dead set against extending the bans, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., grudgingly says maybe the jobless should get weekly $300 federal aid, not the $600 they used to receive under programs that stopped taking new entrants on July 31.


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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