WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 1.2 million laid-off Americans applied for state unemployment benefits last week, evidence that the coronavirus keeps forcing companies to slash jobs just as a critical $600 weekly federal jobless payment has expired.
The new jobless claims were down by 249,000 from the previous week after rising for two straight weeks.
The Labor Department’s report marked the 20th straight week that at least 1 million people have sought jobless aid.
Before the pandemic hit hard in March, the number of Americans seeking unemployment checks had never surpassed 700,000 in a week, not even during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
On Friday, the government is expected to report a sizable job gain for July — 1.6 million. Yet so deeply did employers slash payrolls after the pandemic paralyzed the economy in March that even July’s expected gain would mean that barely 40% of the jobs lost to the coronavirus have been recovered.
All told, 16.1 million people are collecting traditional unemployment benefits from their state.