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Chart of the Day - Sep. 3

Chart of the day

Originally published: Occasional Links & Commentary (September 3, 2020)  

The number of initial unemployment claims for unemployment compensation in the United States fell below one million for only the second time since the beginning of the COVID crisis. But the number of continued claims for unemployment compensation is once again on the rise, signaling a continuation of the Pandemic Depression.

This morning, the U.S. Department of Labor (pdf) reported that, during the week ending last Saturday, another 881 thousand American workers filed initial claims for unemployment compensation. While initial unemployment claims remain well below the recent peak of about seven million in March, they are far higher than pre-pandemic levels of about 200 thousand claims a week.

The number of continued claims for unemployment compensation, while below its peak, rose from the previous week and was more than 29 million American workers—a figure that includes workers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.*

To put this number in perspective, consider the fact that the highest number of continued claims for unemployment compensation during the Second Great Depression was 6.6 million (at the end of May 2009), and in the week before the Pandemic Depression began there were only 1.6 million continued claims.

In the meantime, at least 1,074 new coronavirus deaths and 40,607 new cases were reported in the United States yesterday. As of this morning, more than 6.1 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 185.6 thousand have died—more than any other country in the world, which has received barely a mention from anyone in the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, many colleges and universities that have attempted to reopen with students in residence are reporting hundreds of (and, in some cases, more than a thousand) novel coronavirus infections.

The result will be new waves of business slowdowns and closures and schools returning to online teaching, which in turn will mean millions more U.S. workers furloughed and laid off. Unless there is a radical change in economic policies and institutions, Americans can expect to see steady streams of both initial unemployment claims and continued claims in the weeks and months ahead.

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*This is the special program for business owners, the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance.

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