The number of first-time claims for jobless benefits dipped to a new pandemic-era low last week. That's welcome news, and proof that the jobs recovery is still moving in the right direction.
Additionally, 96,198 workers -- a figure that is not seasonally adjusted -- filed claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to those not eligible for regular state aid, such as the self-employed.
But last week's dip also coincided with the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefit programs enacted at the start of the pandemic. Although various states had already rolled back some of those benefits over the summer, the federal deadline was the beginning of September.
For millions of unemployed workers that means no more emergency aid.
"Today's unemployment report further shows just how shortsighted the elimination of pandemic unemployment aid is," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at left-leaning think tank The Century Foundation. "Unemployed workers face a tsunami of hardship and suffering that simply did not need to happen."
The effect reduced benefits might have on the labor market is still up for debate. The prior rollbacks in some states did not lead to material changes in the job situation.
In total, nearly 12 million Americans were receiving benefits under various government programs in the week ended August 21.
"In the weeks ahead, seasonal hiring dynamics and the ending of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are expected to have an effect on initial claims for jobless benefits and on the overall number of those receiving some form of unemployment insurance," said Joe Brusuelas chief economist at RSM.
The August monthly jobs report, released September 3, was a major disappointment relative to expectations as the more infectious Delta variant continues to leave its mark on the recovering economy.
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