When it comes to weekly unemployment filings, our whole understanding of “normal” flew out the window six months ago. For example, as regular readers know, it was considered a catastrophe during the Great Recession when jobless claims topped 600,000.
But in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic started taking a brutal toll on the U.S. economy, Americans confronted an entirely new set of standards — to the point that it seemed like relatively good news last month when initial jobless claims fell below 1 million for the first time since March.
Progress has nevertheless been hit or miss. The new report from the Labor Department this morning was a bit more upbeat than the data from two weeks ago.
In the week ending October 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 840,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 12,000 from 837,000 to 849,000. The 4-week moving average was 857,000, a decrease of 13,250 from the previous week’s revised average.
The modest improvement is welcome, though it comes alongside a disheartening observation: we’ve now had 29 consecutive weeks in which the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was worse than at any time during the Great Recession.
All of which leads to a painfully obvious truth: the country still needs economic relief as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a brutal toll.
For reasons that don’t appear to make any sense, Donald Trump disagrees, announcing this week that he’s scrapping negotiations for a “Phase IV” economic aid package and telling voters to simply be satisfied with the status quo until after the election. As voters cast their ballots, the president personally accepted responsibility for ending talks to provide Americans with an economic lifeline.
Politico reported yesterday that even White House allies aren’t pleased.
Several frustrated GOP lawmakers — who are facing major political headwinds as they fight to hang onto their Senate majority — are urging Trump to come back to the negotiating table, as millions of Americans are out of work, airlines are on the verge of massive layoffs and the Federal Reserve chairman recently warned of dire economic consequences if Congress doesn’t act. Some Republicans even fear that Trump’s Tuesday order to halt the talks will not only mean months of delay for suffering families and businesses, but it will also ensure that the GOP takes the political hit for it.
The White House nevertheless made clear yesterday that it’s simply not interested, and will remain focused more on the Supreme Court vacancy than the economy.