With unemployment benefits for millions of workers set to expire in December, Senate Republicans must stop blocking aid

by nyljaouadi1
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More than 1.0 million people applied for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits again last week, including 709,000 people who applied for regular state UI and 298,000 who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA is the federal program that provides up to 39 weeks of benefits for workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance, like the self-employed. Without congressional action, PUA will expire on December 26th (more on that below).

The 1.0 million who applied for UI last week was a decline of 112,000 from the prior week’s figures. Last week was the 34th straight week total initial claims were far greater than the worst week of the Great Recession. (If that comparison is restricted to regular state claims—because we didn’t have PUA in the Great Recession—initial claims last week were still more than 3.0 times where they were a year ago.)

Most states provide 26 weeks of regular benefits, but this crisis has gone on much longer than that. That means many workers are exhausting their regular state UI benefits. In the most recent data, continuing claims for regular state UI dropped by 436,000, from 7.2 million to 6.8 million.

For now, after an individual exhausts regular state benefits, they can move onto Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which is an additional 13 weeks of regular state UI. However, like PUA, PEUC is set to expire on December 26th (more on that below).

In the latest data available for PEUC, (the week ending October 24) PEUC rose by 160,000, from 3.98 million to 4.14 million, offsetting only about a quarter of the 598,000 decline in continuing claims for regular state benefits for the same week. The small increase in PEUC relative to the decline in continuing claims for regular state UI is likely due in part to administrative delays workers are facing getting on to PEUC. Further, many of the roughly 2 million workers who were on UI before the recession began, or who are in states with less than the standard 26 weeks of regular state benefits, are exhausting PEUC benefits. More than a million workers have exhausted PEUC so far (see column C43 in form ETA 5159 for PEUC here). Last week, more than half a million (552,000) workers were on Extended Benefits (EB) which is a program that unemployed workers can get on in some states if they’ve exhausted both regular state benefits and PEUC. But workers will soon begin to exhaust EB in large numbers, as well.

Figure A shows continuing claims in all programs over time (the latest data are for October 24). Continuing claims are nearly 20 million above where they were a year ago. However, use caution interpreting trends over time since March because of reporting issues.

Continuing unemployment claims in all programs, March 23, 2019–October 24, 2020: *Use caution interpreting trends over time because of reporting issues (see below)*

Date Regular state UI PEUC PUA Other programs (mostly STC and EB)
2019-03-23 1,905,627 31,510
2019-03-30 1,858,954 31,446
2019-04-06 1,727,261 30,454
2019-04-13 1,700,689 30,404
2019-04-20 1,645,387 28,281
2019-04-27 1,630,382 29,795
2019-05-04 1,536,652 27,937
2019-05-11 1,540,486 28,727
2019-05-18 1,506,501 27,949
2019-05-25 1,519,345 26,263
2019-06-01 1,535,572 26,905
2019-06-08 1,520,520 25,694
2019-06-15 1,556,252 26,057
2019-06-22 1,586,714 25,409
2019-06-29 1,608,769 23,926
2019-07-06 1,700,329 25,630
2019-07-13 1,694,876 27,169
2019-07-20 1,676,883 30,390
2019-07-27 1,662,427 28,319
2019-08-03 1,676,979 27,403
2019-08-10 1,616,985 27,330
2019-08-17 1,613,394 26,234
2019-08-24 1,564,203 27,253
2019-08-31 1,473,997 25,003
2019-09-07 1,462,776 25,909
2019-09-14 1,397,267 26,699
2019-09-21 1,380,668 26,641
2019-09-28 1,390,061 25,460
2019-10-05 1,366,978 26,977
2019-10-12 1,384,208 27,501
2019-10-19 1,416,816 28,088
2019-10-26 1,420,918 28,576
2019-11-02 1,447,411 29,080
2019-11-09 1,457,789 30,024
2019-11-16 1,541,860 31,593
2019-11-23 1,505,742 29,499
2019-11-30 1,752,141 30,315
2019-12-07 1,725,237 32,895
2019-12-14 1,796,247 31,893
2019-12-21 1,773,949 29,888
2019-12-28 2,143,802 32,517
2020-01-04 2,245,684 32,520
2020-01-11 2,137,910 33,882
2020-01-18 2,075,857 32,625
2020-01-25 2,148,764 35,828
2020-02-01 2,084,204 33,884
2020-02-08 2,095,001 35,605
2020-02-15 2,057,774 34,683
2020-02-22 2,101,301 35,440
2020-02-29 2,054,129 33,053
2020-03-07 1,973,560 32,803
2020-03-14 2,071,070 34,149
2020-03-21 3,410,969 36,758
2020-03-28 8,158,043 52,494 48,963
2020-04-04 12,444,309 3,802 68,897 64,201
2020-04-11 16,249,334 31,392 210,939 89,915
2020-04-18 17,756,054 59,760 1,088,281 116,162
2020-04-25 21,723,230 86,972 3,498,790 158,031
2020-05-02 20,823,294 171,580 6,226,074 175,289
2020-05-09 22,725,217 232,057 7,929,418 216,576
2020-05-16 18,791,926 233,288 11,095,269 226,164
2020-05-23 19,022,578 534,958 9,761,879 247,595
2020-05-30 18,548,442 1,093,338 9,392,718 259,499
2020-06-06 18,330,293 867,226 11,067,905 325,282
2020-06-13 17,552,371 769,155 12,853,484 336,537
2020-06-20 17,316,689 850,461 13,870,617 392,042
2020-06-27 16,410,059 936,726 12,008,146 373,841
2020-07-04 17,188,908 940,001 13,179,377 495,296
2020-07-11 16,221,070 1,055,778 13,008,659 513,141
2020-07-18 16,691,210 1,155,692 12,956,006 518,584
2020-07-25 15,700,971 1,223,255 10,717,042 609,328
2020-08-01 15,112,240 1,289,125 11,212,827 433,416
2020-08-08 14,098,536 1,407,802 10,957,527 549,603
2020-08-15 13,792,016 1,393,314 13,550,916 469,028
2020-08-22 13,067,660 1,422,483 14,656,297 523,430
2020-08-29 13,283,721 1,527,166 14,467,064 490,514
2020-09-05 12,373,201 1,631,645 11,510,888 529,220
2020-09-12 12,363,489 1,806,241 11,828,338 510,610
2020-09-19 11,561,158 1,959,953 11,394,832 589,652
2020-09-26 10,172,332 2,786,333 11,172,335 579,582
2020-10-03 8,952,580 3,296,156 10,152,753 668,691
2020-10-10 8,038,175 3,683,496 10,324,779 614,875
2020-10-17 7,436,321 3,983,613 9,332,610 778,746
2020-10-24 6,837,876 4,143,389 9,433,127 742,719
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