Number of Americans filing for jobless aid dips

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Fewer Americans filed for jobless aid last week, a sign the labor market continues to slowly recover from the massive blow delivered by the coronavirus pandemic.

About 790,000 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in the week ending September 12, the Labor Department said Thursday. It’s the first time in six months that initial unemployment claims were below 800,000.

Accounting for seasonal adjustments, about 860,000 people filed for unemployment aid, in line with earlier weeks. Another 659,000 sought Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new federal program for the self-employed and gig workers. That number fell by 209,000 from the week before.

“Today’s decline in initial unemployment claims (non-seasonally adjusted) is a small bright spot, snapping a four week streak of upticks. However when taking stock of where we are six months into the pandemic, the economy is still struggling,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, said in a note. 

Economists have been calling for additional fiscal stimulus to prop up the economy, which remains fragile. Between February and April, employers shed 22 million jobs. About half of them have returned, but the pace of hiring is slowing.

“[D]ata on unemployment insurance claims indicate that job growth will be slower through the rest of 2020 and that full recovery in the labor market will take years,” Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC, said in a note. 

An extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits ended July 31, squeezing households that had depended on the beefed-up payments. President Donald Trump issued an executive order August 8 providing a scaled-back version of the expanded jobless aid. Most states signed up for federal grants that let them increase weekly benefits by $300 or $400, but that boost is expected to last only a few weeks



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