Weekly Unemployment Claims Beat Expectations, Fall Under 1M For First Time Since Pandemic Began

The number of weekly unemployment claims fell under 1 million last week for the first time since government shutdowns were instituted in mid-March.
During the week ending on Aug. 8, roughly 963,000 workers filed unemployment claims, according to data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday. The number came in lower than expected as economists had predicted that claims numbers would remain at about the 1 million mark, according to Fox Business.
The total number of unemployment claims – a proxy for lost jobs – made since the pandemic began is now nearly 56 million. Weekly unemployment claims still remain historically high, hundreds of thousands of claims above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 filings in a week.
Unemployment filings skyrocketed over 3 million during the week of March 21 as the pandemic and mass shutdowns forced a wave of business closures, many of which have become permanent. The latest unemployment report is the first time weekly claims have totaled under 1 million since the week ending on March 14.
The better than expected unemployment report is another sign that the U.S. economy may be on the path to recovery despite fears of a second wave of the disease and some states re-imposing strict lockdown orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The unemployment rate peaked at 15% in April but fell to 10.2% in July.
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump signed an executive order boosting unemployment benefits by $400/week, 25% of which will be covered by states, after a congressionally approved $600/week program timed out at the end of last month. Lawmakers in Congress failed to cut a deal to potentially expand the pandemic aid program, largely because Democrats refused to compromise on a roughly $3.5 trillion spending package.
“We’re doing that without the Democrats,” Trump said at the time, referring to the $400 weekly unemployment boost. “We should have been able to do it very easily with them, but they want all of these additional things that have nothing to do with helping people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who led the Democratic side of the failed negotiations, put out a statement slamming Trump’s use of executive authority. 
“These policy announcements provide little real help to families. For instance, not only does the President’s announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher. Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families’ unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services,” the statement said.
Economists and administration officials have said, and business owners have complained, that the boosted unemployment benefits program approved by Congress in March, which provided an extra $600/week to people who lost jobs amid the coronavirus, was keeping workers from returning to their jobs after businesses began reopening.
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