Weekly unemployment claims tick down nationally, in Indiana

Initial unemployment claims dropped nationally and in Indiana last week.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people seeking jobless aid last week dropped by 98,000, to a seasonally adjusted 1,006,000, down from 1.1 million the week before. The number of initial claims has exceeded 1 million most weeks since late March. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they never topped 700,000 in a week.

In Indiana, 10,778 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended Aug. 22, down from an adjusted number of 11,569 the previous week, a decrease of 791. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week.

A total of 169,336 people were receiving unemployment benefits in Indiana as of Aug. 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was down from 183,083 the previous week.

Thursday’s report also showed that an additional 607,806 people applied for jobless benefits nationally last week under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed and gig workers. That was a increase from an adjusted 524,986 the previous week.

Indiana reported 6,457 new applicants for the PUA program in the week ended Aug. 22 after reporting 6,755 new claims the previous week. The state reported 135,014 people were receiving continued PUA aid as of Aug. 8, down from 129,766 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.

Nationally, more than 14.5 million are collecting traditional jobless benefits, a decrease of 223,000 from the previous week’s revised level. That’s up from 1.7 million a year ago.

Until July 31, the unemployed were receiving an extra $600 a week in federal money on top of regular state unemployment benefits, part of an extraordinary lifeline extended to help them through the crisis.

After passing a massive financial rescue package in March, congressional Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on more aid. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Aug. 8 offering a stripped-down version of the expanded unemployment benefits. At least 39 states have accepted or said that they would apply for federal grants that let them increase weekly benefits by $300 or $400.

Those benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 1.

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