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Unemployment 2020

Unemployment claims drop to 787,000, but layoffs remain high

Associated Press Oct 22, 2020
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses may have eased slightly but are still running at historically high levels.

With confirmed infections having neared 60,000 in the past week, the highest level since July, many consumers have been unable or reluctant to shop, travel, dine out or congregate in crowds — a trend that has led some employers to keep cutting jobs. Several states, such as Ohio and Idaho, are reporting a record number of hospitalizations from the virus.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits tumbled by 1 million to 8.4 million. The decline shows that some of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs or are finding new ones. But it also indicates that many jobless Americans have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts an additional three months.

Many jobless recipients are now receiving only regular state unemployment payments because a federal weekly supplement of $300 has ended in nearly all states. And a $600-a-week federal benefit expired over the summer.

The still-elevated number of jobless claims underscores that a full recovery from the pandemic recession remains far off. Job growth has slowed for three straight months, leaving the economy still 10.7 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level. The unemployment rate remains high at 7.9%.

And major companies keep announcing layoffs. Aramark, a food services contractor that provides concessions at sports stadiums, said Wednesday that it would lay off 975 workers in Denver, most of whom worked at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. The company is also cutting 550 jobs in Kansas City. Most major league baseball games this season were played with limited or no crowds, thereby reducing the need for concession workers

Amtrak said at a congressional hearing Wednesday that it would have to cut 2,400 jobs unless Congress approves emergency aid as part of another stimulus bill.

Yet negotiations in Congress over another round of financial aid have largely stalled, with little prospect for a deal before Election Day. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing to negotiate. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned the White House against agreeing to a large package that would be opposed by most Senate Republicans.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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