National, Indiana jobless claims up for second straight week as virus worsens

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for a second straight week, to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heighten the risks.

Claims also increased in Indiana.

The U.S. Labor Department’s report Wednesday said that jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. They shot up to 6.9 million during March before dropping, yet they remain historically high more than eight months later, with many businesses unable to fully reopen.

In Indiana, 20,454 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended Nov. 21, up from an adjusted number of 15,422 the previous week. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week.

A total of 83,979 people were receiving unemployment benefits in Indiana as of Nov. 14, the Labor Department said. That was up from 81,938 the previous week.

Thursday’s report also showed that an additional 311,675 people applied for jobless benefits nationally last week under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed and gig workers. That was increase from 319,694 the previous week.

Indiana reported 15,904 new applicants for the PUA program in the week ended Nov. 21 after reporting 11,416 new claims the previous week. The state reported 230,304 people were receiving continued PUA aid as of Nov. 7, up from 177,764 the prior week.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits. Those include the self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers and workers for certain religious entities.

The spike in virus cases is intensifying pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses.

“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,″ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “Even as job growth is continuing, the labor market remains under stress and far from complete recovery.″

The total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That figure has been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid—which typically expires after six months.

The number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program—which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted state jobless aid—rose by 132,000, to 4.5 million.

All told, nearly 20.5 million people are receiving some type of unemployment aid. (Figures for the two pandemic-related programs aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations.)

The intensifying pandemic is threatening to accelerate the pace of layoffs as more states and localities limit public gatherings and mandate fewer hours and smaller capacities for restaurants, bars and other businesses. Regardless what governments do, many Americans are likely to stay home — and away from local businesses — until they feel safe again.

The Conference Board, a business research group, reported Tuesday that consumer confidence weakened in November, pulled down by lowered expectations for the next six months.

The data firm Womply says that 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of this month, reflecting a steady increase from June’s 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October, Womply found.

The heart of the problem is an untamed virus: The number of confirmed infections in the United States has shot up to more than 170,000 a day, from fewer than 35,000 in early September. The arrival of cold weather in much of the country could further worsen the health crisis.

Meanwhile, another economic threat looms: The impending expiration of the two supplemental federal unemployment programs the day after Christmas could end benefits completely for 9.1 million jobless people. Congress has failed for months to agree on any new stimulus aid for jobless individuals and struggling businesses after the expiration of a multi-trillion dollar rescue package it enacted in March.

Most economists warn that without more government aid, hardships will deepen for individuals, small companies and localities and states, which will likely have to slash services and jobs.

The expiration of benefits will make it harder for the unemployed to make rent payments, afford food or keep up with utility bills. Most economists agree that because unemployed people tend to quickly spend their benefits, such aid is effective in boosting the economy.

When the viral outbreak struck in early spring, it flattened the economy with stunning speed. Employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April, sending the unemployment rate rocketing to 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression.

Since then, the economy has regained more than 12 million jobs. Yet the nation still has about 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic erupted.

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One thought on “National, Indiana jobless claims up for second straight week as virus worsens

  1. WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO CONVINCE THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION THAT THE “PLAN” IS NOT WORKING? THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS OVERWHELMED, AND THE RESOURCES ARE SLOWING FADING AWAY. ARE WE THAT BACKWARD, REGARDING HEALTHCARE, THAT WE JUST LET THE TRAIN GO OVER THE CLIFF? THERE NEEDS TO BE A SERIOUS AND AGGRESSIVE PLAN WITH REAL CONSEQUENCES IF THE THERE IS NO COMPLIANCE!!!! I HAVE NO CLUE WHY THE COMMUNITY HAS NOT DEMANDED MORE.
    THE FOLLOWING MAY SOUND MONOTONOUS, BUT IT HAS TO BE SAID TILL REAL CHANGE HAPPENS:
    It is beyond belief that anyone in our local and State governments would allow this total disaster to continue unchecked. The State’s plan is too little and too late. The plan must be more aggressive and thorough. It is totally clear that the current administration does not have the internal medical expertise to make a decent plan to balance both health and the economy simultaneously. It appears that there is no group within our State that is willing to seriously confront the current administration to force it to make significant chances. Healthcare professionals, hospital systems, medical societies, etc. have been eerily silent.
    Even though I have written the following many times before, the basics remain the same. The citizens of our State have to get the message again and again and again, etc. (Remember how long it took to get people to wear seat belts!!!!!!!!!!! The same craziness against seat belts is being used to avoid masks. Many of the same mistakes were made during the 1918 pandemic as well. Too bad history seems to be avoided in our schools at all levels.)
    New record numbers every day!!!! How many citizens are we going to let get sick, and how many are going to let die? It really is as simple as that.
    However, let me try to understand the logic of the State response to the surging pandemic: Stage 5 is okay. Our focus, per Dr. Box, is to increase the amount of healthcare staff and healthcare capacity to take care of the increasing number of sick people. Oh by the way, please wear your mask, pretty please!! (I love it when the Health Commissioner, who recently got over COVID-19 episode, has only this to offer to curb the raging pandemic in our State.
    As I have said before our State needs outside expertise (e.g. Dr. Anthony Fauci) to tell us citizens the REAL status of our State’s current plan to mitigate the pandemic of our State. The current “experts” from State outside of government (e.g. IU) have done little more than to create a bunch of numbers that are totally not understood by the common lay person.
    There needs to a ground swell of outrage from the medical community (i.e. hospital, physicians, medical organizations, nursing organization, pharmacists, etc.) to force a change in how our State is handling the pandemic.
    The State has the money to finance, through the Care ACT, to fund a more comprehensive plan to provide all the necessary tools (PPE, testing, contact tracing, etc.) to get the situation under control.
    A responsible government would be able to balance the economy AND public health. Indiana appears not to be able to multitask. A responsible State government would be able to do both. (As a small business owner, I have lost at least 50% of my income for the year. I know the financial consequences of the pandemic. It took months as the beginning to obtain the necessary amount of PPE to keep my employees and customers safe. I have been able to keep the staff intact as well. However, one does not know what the future will bring)
    Hopefully, with the election over for the State, our local leaders will begin to multi-task. Frankly, I do not expect any progress. With the flu season beginning and with more indoor events, we need to expect that things are just going to get worse.
    Everyone for our State should realize that our current situation was avoidable. Letting things get worse by this State’s administration is UNCONSCIONABLE and INDEFENSIBLE.
    Everyone should re-watch the scene from “NETWORK” where Peter Finch gives a speech that still resonates today. Here is the YOUTUBE link:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMVMbmQBug

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