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Millions of people stand to lose federal jobless benefits soon

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In this photo illustration, a person files an application for unemployment benefits on April 16, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia.

For most Americans getting jobless benefits, the money’s about to run out when all federal pandemic unemployment programs expire on Sept. 5. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

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The latest reading on job losses this morning from the Department of Labor shows first-time unemployment claims continued their mostly downward trend. Claims hit 340,000 last week – that’s the lowest since March of 2020.

But there are still around 12 million Americans receiving some kind of jobless benefit. And for most of them, the money’s about to run out when all federal pandemic unemployment programs expire on Sept. 5.

Since the pandemic hit, the feds have paid the tab for laid-off workers who used up their state benefits, also unemployed gig workers, and parents who couldn’t work because of child care or health concerns.

Payments for these folks now average around $600 a week, and are about to run out for at least 7.5 million people.

“This is a super-large cliff,” said Nicole Marquez with the National Employment Law Project. “This impact will be felt most sharply on black and Latinx workers.” Those populations have the highest unemployment rates.

Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute said the cutoff will take billions a week out of consumers’ pockets.

“Lower-wage, lower-hours workers that were getting these benefits, spending their money in the economy, feeding this recovery,” she said.

Gould said the number of people who will lose federal jobless benefits in September is five times higher than the 1.3 million who saw their benefits expire after the Great Recession.

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