The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week ticked down by 33,000 from the previous week to 860,000, as the labor market continues its grueling recovery from the COVID-19 recession.
The Labor Department also noted in its Sept. 17 release (pdf) that the previous week’s initial claims for state unemployment benefits were revised upward from 884,000 to 893,000.
“As time during the pandemic seems to both race ahead and stand still, new jobless claims have remained historically elevated for 26 weeks, or a half-year,” said Bankrate.com senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick, in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times. “The latest reading at 860,000 new claims in the programs administered by states marked a slight decline week-over-week and the fourth below 1 million since mid-March.”
The number of American workers continuing to collect unemployment, after earlier filing an initial jobless claim, fell by 916,000 during the week ending Sept. 5 to 12.63 million. Meanwhile, the total number of people claiming benefits in all unemployment programs for the week ending Aug. 29 was 29.77 million, an increase of 98,456 from the previous week.
By comparison, there were 1.5 million people claiming benefits in all programs in the same week in 2019.
Officials at the Federal Reserve on Sept. 16 voted unanimously to keep interest rates near zero, noting that the pandemic “will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is causing tremendous human and economic hardship across the United States and around the world. Economic activity and employment have picked up in recent months but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.
The U.S. economy created 1.371 million jobs in August after adding 1.734 million in July. So far, 10.6 million of the 22.2 million jobs lost at the height of the CCP virus crisis have been recovered.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said more fiscal support was likely to be needed, adding that while the labor market has improved “substantially,” it remains “a long way from maximum employment.”
While Powell said the economic recovery has progressed more quickly than generally expected, and forecasts for economic growth by Fed officials have been revised upward, “overall activity remains well below its level before the pandemic and the path ahead remains highly uncertain.”
Reports this week showed that retail sales slowed in August, while factory production also cooled last month.
Powell said in remarks on Sept. 16 that household spending, a major driver of the U.S. economy, appears to have recovered about three-quarters of its earlier decline.
Bright spots in the economy are the housing sector, which has bounced back to its level at the beginning of the year, and there are also signs that business investment has picked up, he said.
“Some of the key pain points for the economy remain as before including small business, airlines, bars and restaurants, and retailers,” Hamrick told The Epoch Times. “At the same time, interest rate-sensitive sectors, including housing, fare relatively well. Builder sentiment just notched a record high as just one positive sign for the housing market.”
The Labor Department also said that the insured unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points to 8.6 percent for the week ending Sept. 5.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Sept. 17 that the jobless rate has come down “much faster than anyone thought.”
“We’re not done with the effects, the consequences of the pandemic. We’re not done with the virus, either. I understand that. We have a lot more work to do,” Kudlow said, noting also “the tremendous progress of folks going back to work and the economy in a V-shaped recovery.”