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American jobless claims fall below 800,000 for the first time since mid-March

Another 787,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week. It was the first time jobless claims fell below 800,000 since mid-March. CNN's Christine Romans reports.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 5:10 AM
Updated: Oct 23, 2020 5:10 AM

Claims for unemployment benefits inched lower last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday. Still millions of Americans continue to rely on government aid to make ends meet.

Last week, 787,000 workers claimed first-time benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis. That's down from the prior week, which was revised significantly lower. Last week marked the first time jobless claims fell below 800,000 since mid-March.

But not everyone is eligible for regular state benefits. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which Congress created as part of the CARES Act in the spring, provides benefits for the self-employed and gig workers.

Last week, 345,440 people applied for PUA.

Adding these first-time claims together, initial applications for benefits stood at 1.1 million last week without seasonal adjustments. While that's still a massive number, it's at the lowest level since before the pandemic lockdown.

Continued jobless claims -- which count people who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row -- stood at 8.4 million, about 1 million below the prior week's revised level.

California resumed reporting claims data, after pausing the process to work on its backlog and implement additional fraud prevention measures.

Bad news wrapped in good news

On the face of it, claims figures falling means that fewer people need government benefits to make ends meet -- implying that they have found work again as the economic recovery continues to chug along.

But it's not that simple.

For example, the number of people receiving money under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which was created to bridge the gap after workers max out their state benefits, rose to 3.3 million in the week ended October 3. That's up more than half a million from the week before.

States typically provide up to 26 weeks of benefits. The increasing uptick of PEUC benefits is a bad sign for the recovery: it means more people are unemployed for longer.

"Now, 3.3 million Americans are in that program and are in danger of falling into the ranks of the permanently unemployed," said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, in emailed comments.

In total, 23.2 million Americans received some form of government jobless benefits in the week ended October 3, down about a million from the week before.

And as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has repeatedly warned, workers who are out of a job for longer and become "detached" from the labor force typically have a tough time re-entering the job market later on.

The September jobs report highlighted this issue, as an unexpectedly huge amount of workers dropped out of the labor force. The drop-out rate was particularly high among prime working-age women aged 35-44.

"This report further shows that Congress has left millions of workers dislocated by the pandemic hanging by a thread," Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said in emailed comments.

Negotiations about another stimulus package continue in Washington, but time is running out to get a deal passed before the presidential election in 12 days.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
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