Another 860,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

Weekly jobless claims decline to 860,000 but the improvements have been slow and the jobs recovery is running out of steam. CNN's Christine Romans reports.

Posted: Sep 18, 2020 8:21 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2020 8:21 AM

Another 860,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

It was another week-on-week decline for jobless claims as the jobs recovery drags on, but the improvements have been slow and the jobs recovery is running out of steam. Weekly claims have improved since mid-August, when they briefly inched higher.

Despite the improvement, last week's claims were still about four-times higher than they were before the pandemic.

"That just tells you that the labor market has improved, but that it's a long way from maximum employment," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters during Wednesday's monetary policy update.

Continued jobless claims, counting workers who have filed for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 12.6 million, down significantly from the number in last week's report.

Worse still, these numbers don't include claims filed under the government's various other jobless aid programs, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits for those who aren't usually eligible, sucha as the self-employed.

Claims for PUA benefits stood at 658,737 last week, down from the prior week. It was their first week-on-week decrease since the start of August.

Adding PUA claims and not seasonally adjusted regular benefit claims together, first-time applications stood at 1.4 million in the week ending September 12 -- down from the week before.

Confusion about data accuracy

But just how many people are actually collecting unemployment benefits is unclear.

The flood of applicants spurred by the coronavirus shutdowns and the creation of the temporary pandemic unemployment assistance program left federal and state agencies struggling to provide reliable data. It took weeks for many out-of-work Americans to have their claims accepted, resulting in large backlogs that could skew the figures.

What's more, criminals swiftly sought to take advantage of the chaos and filed fraudulent claims, making it even more difficult to determine the true number of people in the unemployment system.

Some experts say there are fewer folks collecting benefits than the number listed in the report. They point to the PUA program as one source of the problem.

Part of the problem is that it took time to set up the new system and many of those eligible may not have initially realized they could apply. This left some people applying for multiple weeks of benefits at once, inflating the continued claims data.

"You are not counting actual people, you are counting the number of claims," said Till von Wachter, director of the California Policy Lab, which is working with the state unemployment agency to analyze jobless data during the pandemic. "And it's not necessarily the claims for that particular week."

For example, the policy lab found that while there were roughly 3.5 million Californians who were receiving benefits in mid-August, the number of payments certified topped 6 million.

In the the Golden State, those in the regular state unemployment program have been certifying for roughly two weeks, on average, for most of this year, according to a recent report published the research organization. (California residents submit their certifications every two weeks, not weekly like in many other states.)

But those in the pandemic program had been certifying for about four weeks since June, and that figure spiked to more than eight weeks at the end of August.

The state recently revised its certification process for claimants in the pandemic program and stepped up its efforts to combat fraud.

Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported the number of jobless claims last week. It was 860,000.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
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